Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Behind the Masthead: Dorothy Chan, Poetry Editor

With a new staff comes a new series of Behind the Masthead interviews! We know you are all dying to learn about the inner workings of HFR, as well as about the people who select the incredible work that goes in our magazine. In these interviews, they will share some of their deepest secrets, including tips on how to get on their good side in the submission queue (handy, eh?). First up is Dorothy Chan. Kacie Wheeler interviewed her about her reading and writing habits, her favorite poet and what kind of stuff she loves to see submitted to HFR.

Kacie Wheeler: What are you currently reading (outside of HFR submissions)?

Dorothy Chan: Right now I’m reading (or maybe “skimming”) through a couple things: Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and Damned, this harem manga called Love Hina, the current issues of Vogue, Elle, and Nylon, and Smudging by Diane Wakoski (a recommendation from Norman Dubie). I also make time to look at my favorite art and fashion blogs. Oh, and I really need to get my hands on Alison Bechdel’s new graphic novel.

KW: What are you writing right now?

DC: Haha…that’s kind of personal, but here’s a hint. It’ll probably include at least some of the following: 1. a romantic longing, a romantic plot, or a love/hate relationship, 2. an erotic moment(s) involving food, 3. references to Old Hollywood (Cary Grant, Vivien Leigh, Katharine Hepburn, etc.), 4. an ekphrastic focus (perhaps inspired by Terry Richardson, Mario Testino, Raphael, Ingres, etc.), and/or 5. fun Japanese references (dating sim games, maid cafes, anime, Shibuya…I could go on forever).

KW: Who is your favorite poet? Why?

DC: Robert Hass, hands down. I really can’t think of a more perfect, universal sentence than “Longing, we say, because desire is full of endless distances.”

KW: What kinds of things do you like to see show up in the submission queue?

DC: Prose poems—I am totally in love with this form. In general though, I love poems that capture life’s little moments, or poems that are full of references (but use them in a smart way). Right now, I’m being really picky about line breaks and line indentations. There’s a reason for everything, and for a poet to fully understand his/her poem, he/she must fully understand what form suits the content the best. Finally, I look for some element of “desire” in poems—I believe that desire is at the root of everything.

KW: How many times do you practice reading your poetry by yourself before you read in front of an audience?

DC: Enough times that I can pronounce every word with clarity. I also practice voice inflections, occasional singing, and emphasis. Also, I usually practice with Rachmaninoff or Gossip Girl in the background—yep, I’m a mix of high and low, or maybe in this case, high and high.

KW: What are three reasons why you reject poems?

DC: 1. I feel they are gimmicky.
2. I’m unsatisfied with either the opening or the closing.
3. I don’t feel “conviction” in the speaker’s voice.

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Dorothy Chan is a first-year MFA candidate in poetry at Arizona State University. She recently graduated from Cornell University. Her work has been featured in The Writing Disorder and Cha. Her poem “Ikebukuro Train Rides,” which appeared originally in The Writing Disorder, was nominated for a Pushcart.

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