Poet Of The Week

Rachel Kang

     May 8–14, 2017

Rachel Kang received her BFA from New York University. Her work has appeared in Cosmonauts Avenue, DMQ Review and other journals. In 2016, she was awarded scholarships to Home School Miami and the Kenyon Playwrights Conference. Originally from Alaska, Rachel now lives in Queens with the ghost of her cat Sheila. “I would like a day that goes by slowly” appears in the Brooklyn Poets Anthology, released this spring.

I would like a day that goes by slowly

nothing to do or say
nothing to be

cars and bicycle bells
people with dogs that smell funny
rich babies and exotic nannies
stack like cards
pigeons roosting in the crevices between elbows and eyes
throw feathers over the ledge

I would like to be colored in with crayons and kid sounds
knitted into my park bench
purled around the twenty wisdoms I know
of the curve of my lip
and your index finger

no one knows the depths of the dent in your chin
when the taxis are still sleeping
and the sun creeps its way across the floor
of unmatched socks and feet

when your breath has turned to waves
and I am the one that sees it.

–Originally published in Timepiece Literary Journal, 2012.

Tell us about the making of this poem.

I look at this poem now and think it’s the corniest thing I’ve ever read. I wrote it when I had fallen freshly in love, when every day spent with this dude was like witnessing little miracles. Needless to say, I am jaded now and forever ruined to love. Poems can be time capsules to moments that are too beautiful to live beyond a certain period of time. I think while writing this poem I knew I was in the midst of something fleeting.

What are you working on right now?

Keeping it together.

What’s a good day for you?

Good coffee, good wine, good company—pretty sure I saw that cross-stitched somewhere.

What brought you to Brooklyn?

Initially, it was an MTA disaster. We got into Brooklyn and then, I guess, the L was on fire or went missing—something happened because I remember thinking I may never see Manhattan again. However, I realized that Brooklyn is that molten place where people are coming together and making things. And that was exactly where I wanted to be.

Tell us about your neighborhood in Brooklyn. How long did you live there? What did you like about it? How does it compare to other neighborhoods or places you’ve lived?

I’m in Queens now but spent two years in Bushwick. I liked its dirt and its food. But, like anywhere in the city, gentrification is swift and felt. Queens is lovely, secure and quiet which is what I need now. Action is just as important as inaction. I’m trying to teach myself to be bored and be okay with it. Maybe I should’ve said that was what I was working on …

Share with us a defining Brooklyn experience, good, bad, or in between.

The first time I had ever been to Brooklyn was days after my best friend and I moved to the city. We were on our way to a secret warehouse party when we realized we were horribly lost. We wandered around in our clubwear clutching an oriental (and probably racist) figurine and a broken lamp. In order to get into the party you needed an antique and to say a password. I can’t remember what the password was, but it should’ve been something like “help me” or “please call my parents.” The night was punctuated by me pushing a guy off his bike and a disco ball breaking into a million tiny shards that stuck into the soles of our shoes. Terror and determination have always been hallmarks of our friendship. To this day we have no idea where we were.

What does a poetry community mean to you? Have you found that here? Why or why not?

Yes, absolutely. Brooklyn Poets has done an incredible job at bringing poets together to build a vibrant and supportive community. I had never heard of Brooklyn Poets until one summer, while stalking Dorothea Lasky, I ended up enrolled in one of its workshops with her. I am grateful for the support of Brooklyn Poets over the years and for the wonderful people they’ve brought into my life.

Tell us about some Brooklyn poets who have been important to you.

I met Amy Klein at Home School Miami last year and have been obsessed with her ever since. Every now and then you come across someone that stops you in your tracks. Her brains were just that dazzling. Beyond her show-stopping intellect, she’s an artist whose work inspires me to be better.

Who were your poetry mentors and how did they influence you?

Dorothea Lasky is a very special person to me. She showed me how to make room for magic in my life and that a little paranormal activity isn’t so bad. Yusef Komunyakaa taught me how to craft and care for my poetry. I had the privilege of working with them while studying at NYU Florence.

Tell us about the last book(s) and/or poem(s) that stood out to you and why.

Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong. I’m wrecked. His imagery is intense and visceral. The language is as romantic as it is shocking and absolutely unforgettable. Ocean’s “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” is one of my all-time favorite poems.

What are some books or poems you’ve been meaning to read for years and still haven’t gotten to?

The Cowherd’s Son by Rajiv Mohabir.

Describe your reading process. Do you read one book at a time, cover to cover, or dip in and out of multiple books? Do you plan out your reading in advance or discover your next read at random? Do you prefer physical books or digital texts? Are you a note-taker?

I’m a cover-to-cover kind of girl. I like going through one poem at a time and following the arc of a book. It’s interesting to me to watch how each poem complicates the next. With every poem, you as the reader learn something, which influences how you encounter the next poem, which changes everything you read before. After I go through the whole thing, that’s when I start dipping. Then it’s a kind of poetry roulette.

Physical books. Period.

I’m an avid note-taker. I write all over my books. Underlining, starring, bracketing—it’s a mess. I’m also a major coffee-spiller and no book goes unscathed.

What’s one thing you’d like to try in a poem or sequence of poems that you haven’t tried before?

I would like to write a long poem.

Where are some places you like to read and write (besides home, assuming you like to be there)?

Diners. I can’t tell you how often I find myself in the middle of the night writing all over paper napkins. And for all the heartache that is the MTA, the subway is another place where I tend to write a lot. I think I like the movement, the rush in and rush out with brief moments of stillness. How in those moments, you catch a glimpse of New York’s microcosms. They’re the tide pools of the city.

What are some Brooklyn spaces you love? Why?

TNT (rest in peace)—the loveliest drag dungeon there ever was.
Nitehawk—because you can watch a movie and have your rosé too.
The Rosemont—the DJ plays all my favorite Britney songs.

Fill in the blanks in these lines by Whitman:

I celebrate the hunger,
And what I desire in darkness you take in quiet hands,
For every innocent fed me as good as I feed you.

(A love note to the film The Hunger.)

Why Brooklyn?

For the glory.