Hoa Nguyen | An Interview      (page 4)

3. Comparing your writing with those of your influences (Charles Olson and Alice Notley), I am able to see the similarities. What specifically about their work influences and fascinates you the most and what do you think sets you apart from them and any other writers who have influenced you?

Olson I love for his investigative poetics—he offers strategies for how to include the trajectories of human history (personal, local, cultural) in the work. I admire how he and Notley are interested in the long project, poems as a series of poems, to be considered and received as series, poems in conversation with one another. I also love how they engage verse with a distinctly American idiom, one that is speech based—I like the immediacies that rest there. The forms are generous enough to contain the largeness of experiences—the horizontal and vertical axis of space-time—so that the work can contain the everyday and ordinary as well as archetypal forms, the mythic, and the numinous. Their poems can be jagged, messy, confound my expectations, drone, rage, mourn. I love the variousness and the surprise. I love the embedded narratives and the reaching after.

So many writers influence my poetics. Perhaps one linkage is to a kind of folk music that is based on the breath-line, from and of the body, issuing from the percussive of the heart, and informed by the unruly twists of experience and urgency. This also speaks to the way that my poetics were informed by contemporary folk forms of garage and punk rock, post-punk and power-pop.

Two of the best compliments I have every received about my poetry: 1) someone compared my poems to the music of The Pixies. 2) someone compared my poems specifically to the song "Paper Planes" by M.I.A. What is interesting about the latter comparison is that "Paper Planes" riffs off a classic punk song by The Clash.

Recently, I fell back in love with the classic song "96 Tears." It was written and performed by a band called ? & the Mysterians in 1966 (before I was born—I remember listening to this song obsessively as a kid—I think a friend had it on vinyl as part of a compilation album and we wore this song out). What is interesting to me is that all the band members of ? & the Mysterians were Mexican American and it was this song about which the term “punk rock” was coined.

I love this youtube video recording; it plays this song as a “single” on a 45 inch record.

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