Tuesday, October 9, 2018

TBR: Anagnorisis by Kyle Dargan

TBR [to be read] is a semi-regular, invitation-only interview series with authors of newly released/forthcoming, interesting books who will tell us about their new work as well as offer tips on writing, stories about the publishing biz, and, from time to time, a recipe! 

We don’t expect an elevator pitch from a poet, but can you tell us about your work in 2-3 sentences?

I have been writing about my travels to China for some time, but it has taken me years to actually become comfortable with widely publishing such material as the opportunity to travel to China has always been bittersweet for me. The two times I have traveled there, I have been hosted by the Chinese Writers Association, and they were very kind to me. At the same time, it isn’t a secret that there are a slew of native Chinese writers—those openly dissident and those not—that the Communist Party silences and jails. So if I am writing honestly about China and my time there, I cannot be writing only about the wonders, of which there are many. But what happens then when those people who have been kind to me read work of mine which is part critical of their country? (The other option, which I had been defaulting to, was to write nothing.) So that, as well as being bold enough to include straight nonfiction in the book, was the challenge for ANAGNORISIS.

Tell us a bit about the highs and lows of your book’s road to publication.

No low points writing this book. I will say that significant aspects of it were inspired by my disappointment over the reception of my last book, but aside from processing that frustration into poems, it was wonderful getting to work with a blk woman editor, Parneshia Jones, for the first time (a rare opportunity for anyone still, sadly).

What’s your favorite piece of writing advice?

The only writing advice I offer universally is that everything you write—any draft, any revision, any book—is only an attempt.  (I actually articulated this in a tweet recently that went shockingly viral—someone quoted it back to me at a reading.) And what I am suggesting is that there is no need to be particularly hung up on attempting something in your writing because the best thing you ever write and the worst are both only just attempts at articulating a vision—a try. And tries are plentiful for writers.

What was your experience ordering these poems?

There is a strong hand at play in all my books’ structures, but with ANAGNORISIS in particular I wanted to curate a very specific experience. The movement away from, or out of, the State and psychic violence of early 2010s America to China (with the nonfiction passage serving as a bridge) and then back, bearing new perspective, is the same geographical and emotional journey I endured writing the book. One Amazon reviewer—bless them—wrote “[t]he beginning sequence of poems was compelling in its language and flow of raw, yet lyrically refined frustration and rage […]. The energy of the first half seemed to fade and I was left, however guiltily, to grind my way to the end.” That is exactly the point, though. I was not trying to, nor do I believe I have to, sustain a rage for the entirety of a book. At some point, that would become more performative than a true reflection of my honest processing. So the fish tastes like fish—its strong notes and subtlety. Sorry.

Inquiring foodies and hungry book clubs want to know: Any food/s associated with your book? (Any recipes I might share?)

So speaking of food, while I cannot cook a lot of it, the thing we ate the most in China was actually Corean (Korean) food—barbeque & bibimbap. (There is actually a poem about dining at a North Corean restaurant in the book.) Done well (and I know the difference now), or at least done with an attention to tradition, I can’t recommend it enough.

Japchae is a great Corean dish that is easy to make at home. With the nod to tradition earlier, I would recommend this preparation video by food blogger Angela Minji Kim: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyA-3nJD4TA

READ MORE ABOUT KYLE DARGAN: http://www.american-boi.com/

ORDER ANAGNORISIS FOR YOUR TBR PILE:  https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780810137844


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.