Hoa Nguyen | An Interview      (page 5)

4. We know that Olson refers a lot to the geography of place in his work and noticed that you do this as well in your poems, i.e. "Medina Apples." What significance does place have to your work?

Once I heard some depressing statistic about how most people in the U.S. can recognize 20-something logos instantly but can’t name five common plants growing outside of their homes. Naming your immediate environs and knowing it with some intimacy feels like waking up to the world.

Environmental activist and poet Lewis MacAdams’s focus is on watersheds. Once, on a visit to Austin, he asked me about the creek near my house. Into what body of water did it flow?, he asked. I was new-ish to Austin and didn’t have the answer.

The answer is this: Boggy Creek flows into Waller, which enters the Colorado River which winds its way to Matagorda Bay of the Gulf of Mexico.

I think it is important to know the landscape, the rocks and aquifers beneath you, the forms that live upon it, their habits and interfaces, the stars above and their names through time, how they whirl. Throughout human history, poetry and naming are deeply linked. It traces the relations.

Language itself is metaphorical: these syllables stand-in for this thing, this action, this abstraction. There’s slippage between the naming and the named. I think poetry steps into the slipping places and looks at the linkages there.

How does sound leave a body, reach another body, recall and resonate with something for a receiving listener, how do words resonate inside the listener’s body and relate to thing, state, meaning?

Naming a landscape in all its complexity helps place once self in this constellation of process.

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