“I tend to return to ideas of emotional uncertainty, dissociation, and things that linger like regret or loss.”
Inventory (Ghost City Press, 2016)
Could you share with us a representative or pivotal poem (or excerpt) from your chapbook? Perhaps something that introduces the work of the chapbook, or that invites the reader into the world of the chapbook?
Excerpt from “the ways in which we are not”.
self portrait as a series of images
in negative / as phantoms
thrown up on the wall in silhouette.
portrait as a painting you saw
in a dream, the lock heavy on your
tongue, the key corroding
in your stomach.
an approximation of reality,
a set of laces coming undone,
the smell of wine and honey / the
taste of starch dissolving on your tongue
as paper bridges, as ash and cinder
on your breath.
What are some of your favorite chapbooks? Or what are some chapbooks that have influenced your writing?
These aren’t necessarily all chapbooks, but Monica Ong’s Silent Anatomies, Dalton Day’s To Breathe I’m Too Thin, Emily O’Neill’s Pelican, Franny Choi’s Floating, Brilliant, Gone, Michael Schmeltzer’s Elegy/Elk River. I’m often inspired not by one book alone, but by poems and moments from over the course of a writer’s entire body of work, so it’s hard to pick just one chapbook or writer and feel like I’m covering all my bases. It’s hard to track moments of inspiration, especially as they progress and change along with you. All of these writers and books did something with form, or grief, and language and themes that I’ve gained new perspectives and ideas from.
What obsessions led you to write your chapbook?
I wouldn’t call them obsessions, but I tend to return to ideas of emotional uncertainty, dissociation, and things that linger like regret or loss. I’m interested in the ways in which we ascribe value and emotional significance from things that are inanimate, and how we can reverse this process by treating emotional states like objects, bodies like things detached from ourselves. How a sense of self and certainty can sometimes be disconnected or lost to us.
What’s your chapbook about?
Inventory is an accumulation of distinct moments and intents, a sort of hodge-podge of snapshots that accumulated together because they all had the same thread of emotional turbulence, distance, dissociation, and grief.
How did you decide on the arrangement and title of your chapbook?
Since there are common themes like hauntings and grief and dreams, I arranged the poems in a way so that they almost moved from one into the next. Overall, it sort of begins from the most emotionally visceral pieces and then moves towards a sense of distance and removal, where the focus moves from self and surrounding to objects and lists.
What was the final poem you wrote or significantly revised for the chapbook, and how did that affect your sense that the chapbook was complete?
“the ways in which you are not” was the last poem I wrote for Inventory. It drew on a lot of the themes I’d had floating around throughout the assembly of the project, so it had the sense of pulling everything together. It’s also one of the poems that I feel is a little rough around the edges and less refined compared to everything else.
What has the editorial and production experience with the press who picked up your chapbook been like? To what degree did you collaborate on the cover image and design of your chapbook?
Ghost City Press has been great to work with. They reached out to me initially with the opportunity to join their Summer Series, and I loved the idea and was so excited to be a part of it. They were very helpful and accommodating throughout the process. I was lucky enough to be able to work with Georgia Bellas on the cover for the chapbook. She provided me with a wealth of options to choose from and was a pleasure to work with. I ultimately went with the cover that I felt suited the theme of the chapbook the most, otherwise it would have been nearly impossible to pick just one.
What are you working on now?
I was fortunate enough to be invited back to write another micro-chapbook for Ghost City Press’ 2017 summer series, so I will be working on that sometime in the near future. I’ve been playing with the idea of writing an instruction manual micro-chapbook, loosely based off of the last poem in Inventory (originally published in Flapperhouse). There is also another project I’d had in mind on grief and architecture, but this is only in its seedling stages. I’m also hoping to revise and submit a full-length chapbook based on some of my earlier work.
If you could choose another artistic path (painting, music, dance, etc.) what would it be and why?
I think I’m a writer because, despite loving the arts so much, I’m not very talented any other way. I oscillate between a love of cinematography, surreal art, choreography, and music on a regular basis, so I would probably be happy doing anything in the arts. I would love to work in film, and help create the beautiful shots and moments that leave us completely transported in a good show or film.
What question would you like to ask future writers featured at Speaking of Marvels?
Is there a piece of art beyond writing, like a song, painting, or video that had a significant impact on the formation of your chapbook?
Joyce Chong is a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominated poet and writer living in Ontario, Canada. She is currently a contributing editor for Wildness Magazine’s weekly feature, The Wilds. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming from One Throne Magazine, Noble Gas Qtrly, and Hypertrophic Literary, among others. Her micro-chapbook Inventory is currently available from Ghost City Press. She can be found on twitter @_joycechong.