“The writing of this book was driven by the question of how or whether one can be a responsible and ethical member of empire, particularly in the face of white, hot reversals and upheavals….”
Age of Glass (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2018)
How do you decorate your writing space?
Three desks: one for writing, one for holding work-in-progress, and a standing desk.
A lucky bowl from Phoenix; a lucky mirror shaped like a genie-lamp from Kerala, India; a small, lucky cup from Qatar; a candle with holder made from a drupe from Peru (all given to me by friends); a favorite lamp sculpture titled Girl Reading to Shadow by Saya Moriyasu, and many other beloved totems.
What is the relationship between your ethics and your aesthetics? How does your form, content, and style as a writer reflect how you are and are trying to be as a person?
The writing of this book was driven by the question of how or whether one can be a responsible and ethical member of empire, particularly in the face of white, hot reversals and upheavals, as this era comes to a close, and particularly as a writer, a person of color, and a woman.
I chose the form of the sonnet to inform this long series of poems, for the emotional ballast the form provides in its rigor, but also because the sonnet lends itself to argument and countering established notions (sometimes established by the poet herself) and because my writing in this form in a self-consciously feminist voice shifts the long (mostly male and white) tradition of this ur-form in English.
What songs soundtrack your making of your book?
I think of Blondie’s Heart of Glass now when I read the title, but it wasn’t a conscious influence during the book’s making. I do love Blondie.
Could you share with us a poem from your book? Perhaps one that introduces the work of the book, or that invites the reader into the world of the book?
Here’s the title poem:
The Glass Age
Every age an age of glass: A slipper shoes
the foot, takes giant steps of tock and tick,
a cone blown, known gone, glass is fashioned, metal
spun to color, mineral made light,
and this is the last poem I will write.
Glass is sand is time falling loose,
a gap of glass is wrapping, a bottle
( ) or swan ( ) of the human whose
hand will flip the glass, grabbing it
by the neck. Every time a nick.
And it is our glass to raise and smash.
A female silhouette, a shape, a vase
with two closed ends, one met. Two cones have kissed.
And the skin of our limit is glass.
Why did you choose this poem?
This poem is one of several poems that concern our current moment, speeding toward apocalypse, and what seems to be the last gasps of the American empire for better and worse. All of the poems in this mini-series have the word “Age” in their titles: “The Platinum Age,” “The Iron Age,” “The Bronze Age,” “Age of Evidence,” etc.
Other poems in the collection include dramatic monologues from the points of view of mostly female characters from myth and folktale. These poems also concern the strangeness of our current time from a feminist, female-bodied perspective and the infuriating, disorienting effects of sexual assault and systemic disparity. And other poems in the collection address all these ideas about time and gender in other ways.
What obsessions led you to write your book?
Obsessions with form, structure, and “rules” themselves, the pleasures of inhabiting form and bending and destroying it. Always loving the sonnet form in particular—I don’t love any other traditional/ received form.
Linear and circular conceptions of time, embodied by the form of the hourglass and the gyre, as articulated by W.B. Yeats.
Misogyny, sexism, and the absurd, bludgeoning persistence of these forces.
How did you decide on the arrangement of your book?
I worked on this collection for 14 years from drafting the first poems to publication. I’d set out to write 100 sonnets and ended up drafting well over 300 over seven years—then I had the large task of sifting and tossing and arranging and revising, which took a few more years, so the book went through many iterations including recent substantive changes in ordering while I was working with Caryl Pagel, the Director of the CSU Poetry Center, who had many valuable suggestions. I also solicited and received a lot of great advice along the way from other poet friends including Joanna Klink, David Micah Greenberg, and Liz Powell.
Which poem is the “misfit” in your collection and why?
“A Parable,” as it’s not a sonnet in any way.
Do you have a favorite revision strategy? What is it?
Revise immediately after drafting and then wait a good, long time and revise again.
What are you working on now?
I’m revising my second poetry collection, Fablesque, which won Tupelo Press’s Berkshire Prize and will be published in 2019. I’m also embarking on a new work focused on sites of partition, beginning with the Korean peninsula’s DMZ.
How do you contend with saturation? The day’s news, the flagged articles, the flagged books, the poetry tweets, the data the data the data. What’s your strategy to navigate your way home?
It’s overwhelming, obviously. I work most of my waking hours, but I employ social media judiciously, and I’m off-line most of the weekend and all day on Saturdays. I do not Tweet or Snap.
Anna Maria Hong’s poetry collection, Age of Glass, won the Cleveland State University Poetry Center’s 2017 First Book Poetry Competition. Her novella, H & G, won the A Room of Her Own Foundation’s Clarissa Dalloway Prize and will be published by Sidebrow Books in May 2018. Her second poetry collection, Fablesque, won Tupelo Press’s Berkshire Prize and is forthcoming in 2019. A former Bunting Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, she has published poetry and fiction in journals and anthologies including The Nation, The Iowa Review, Poetry, Ecotone, POOL, Fence, Verse Daily, Fire on Her Tongue: An Anthology of Contemporary Women’s Poetry and The Best American Poetry.