HFR: Lastly, this poem feels very true to human nature—"How to talk to ourselves again/ When I was a little immolating plant/ And everything could hurt/ It still can." The fragility is so evident in this excerpt and yet there is reassurance. Can you speak about how this theme developed?
VH: This poem was written during a time when I was trying to figure out how to write poetry again, when the language of poetry was becoming more and more practical and tangible to me. I went on a reading tour in 2013 for my first two books (published on the exact same October day), and at some point, started writing some bits of what I envisioned to be a book-length poem. Specifically, I was fixated on a book-length poem filled with lines from letters and names of people I knew or of people that mattered to me. I ultimately strayed in that I wrote several self-contained poems with the same title, so they were interconnected but complete on their own. They were unified by a human voice that was drastically different from anything I had ever written before or really even been comfortable writing—a voice that uttered words without any symbolism despite the weight of it all, words that were to mean only and truly what they said. It was a voice that was uninhibited by the human-speaking world, and that said things as the poetry I had written myself into never says things: as conveyance and deed, as plainly and patently as possible, as oath. The worst thing you could ever imagine happening as told by a child once upon a time. The end. People who die. You give me life then leave. People are dead. Everyone’s an artist. I don’t want to make you sad anymore. I can make you happy. Everyone is alive always. Let me. Let you. Make something whole. With words. After. I thought. With poems. It couldn’t. Mean what you say. Because. The letters. The names. The deaths. The lines from failed plays we believe in everyone is alive always.
from The Last Book
Today I cleaned out two dying creatures ears aching as Lorine said.
But did they were of course of different consistency.
Once in summer camp in the summers of her mostly broken the other witches
accused her such a slippery mouth such a slippery mouth with every. Towards the
end the blooming girls all ran naked and she an unknown lit rose had undressed in
front of the interior witches first without envy without crime and some learned to
love her but others never forgave her.
Today I cleaned out two dying creatures ears. One is a man in the hospice I work at
in Harlem. I love having to commute 90 minutes to work and usually literally
pretend on the way there I’m never gonna get to work so I can get to do something
else anything at all with this sick mind that hopefully doesn’t have anything to do
with me but ultimately does and so fail. I do feel bad because I care about the man
in the hospice, I do, and he has a name, but I’m not going to say his name just now,
someone else will take care of him just as well. Is cynicism a symptom of
Today I cleaned out two dying creatures ears. Enjoyed it? The other always is our
dog who is known for her ear infections. She is not yours. She is ours. She is not
ours. She is theirs. She is not theirs. No one believes you when you’re having your
ears cleaned out very systematically very casually systemic.
Know what the grotesque is. Found a rather useful and wistful cure in it.
Think it will make you ache less. Temporarily. Most cures are and are.
Find every package material think it into waste collection material.
Valerie Hsiung’s debut books of poetry–incantation inarticulate and under your face–were both published in 2013 by O Balthazar Press. Latest and notable poetry and writing can be found or is forthcoming in print and digital with American Letters & Commentary, Denver Quarterly,Moonshot, New Delta Review, the PEN Poetry Series, RealPoetik, VOLT and elsewhere. Her poetry books have been honored as winner of the 2012 Frances Mason Harris Prize and as finalist for the 2015 Fence Press Ottoline Book Prize. A child of the Bluegrass hills of Cincinnati and the Mojave desert of Las Vegas, she is now based out of New York.