“Fashion, food, film, fantasy, and sex, always.”
Revenge of the Asian Woman (Diode Editions, 2019)
If you could choose another artistic path (painting, music, etc.) what would it be and why?
Fashion designer. I remember watching the original season of Project Runway when it first came out. I was fixated—in that first ever challenge, the designers were asked to design an outfit from grocery store items. I was obsessed with Austin Scarlett’s dress made of corn husks. It was spectacular—a merge of two of my obsessions: fashion and food.
What obsessions led you to write your book?
Fashion, food, film, fantasy, and sex, always.
I also think I might have this hidden obsession with Star Wars. It’s a bit coincidental, but my first three book titles pay homage to Star Wars titles: Attack of the Fifty-Foot Centerfold (Spork Press 2018), Revenge of the Asian Woman (Diode Editions, 2019), and my forthcoming third collection, Chinese Girl Strikes Back (Spork Press). So, Attack, Revenge, and Strikes Back. I’m really into titles, so the fact that I have a first “trilogy” makes me happy.
Describe your writing practice or process for your book. Do you have a favorite prompt or revision strategy? What is it?
I had a very strict writing process for this one. I wrote one poem a day (not completely “perfect” per se, but 90% done), then the next day I would revise the previous day’s poem (getting that remainder 10% polished), along with writing another new poem. I continued this process until I was done.
My favorite revision strategy is to do what I call “test runs.” I simply keep the original poem’s Word Doc, make a duplicate, and test out all my ideas, with no restrictions.
What’s the oldest piece in your book? Is there one poem that catalyzed or inspired the rest of the book? What do you remember about writing it?
I’ve lost track of the ages of my poems, but I have to give a special shout-out to the opening poem, “Ode to the First Boy Who Made Me Feel It,” published by The Common. During every step of the manuscript process, this has always been the opening poem, in my head. It’s about my first major crush—this ride operator at the Mexico pavilion at EPCOT—I was ten, on vacation with my parents, and he kept looking at me as I got out of the ride, and I almost fell into the water…yes, he was that dreamy.
Which poem in your book has the most meaningful back story? What’s the back story?
This is a hard question because I love so many of my poems’ back stories. Tonight I’m going to go with “The Soap Opera of My Body (Two-Headed Version),” which was published by The Cincinnati Review. First off, I have a deep love for nostalgia, and I like to make the argument that nostalgia is what really fuels poetry. Though “The Soap Opera of My Body” is this sexy, slinky title, it’s also nostalgic, because I grew up in the nineties and early days of the millennium catching glimpses of soap operas—my mother was a fan of All My Children and General Hospital, so I remember Susan Lucci gracing our TV a lot.
I also have this vague memory of “the title of a sci-fi flick that’s galaxies better / than the one about the man so awestruck he cloned / the woman he fell in lust with, and in the end, was unable to tell // the difference.” These images aren’t necessarily images I like, but they are ones that remind me of my childhood, so I start getting all-nostalgic for the nineties and noughties.
And finally, the part about “Edie, the drag queen superstar host of a Vegas / Strip sex revue” was inspired by Cirque du Soleil’s Zumanity, which is hosted by a fabulous queen named Edie. My best friend Yena and I love that show.
What are you working on now?
I’m proud to say that I handed in my third poetry collection to Spork Press this summer. This one’s titled Chinese Girl Strikes Back. I’m currently mapping out my fourth collection. Work never stops, and I like it that way.
Dorothy Chan is the author of Revenge of the Asian Woman (Diode Editions, 2019), Attack of the Fifty-Foot Centerfold (Spork Press, 2018), and the chapbook Chinatown Sonnets (New Delta Review, 2017). She is a 2019 recipient of the Philip Freund Prize in Creative Writing from Cornell University, a 2014 finalist for the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship, and her work has appeared in The American Poetry Review, Academy of American Poets, Verse Daily, The Offing, and elsewhere. Chan is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Poetry Editor of Hobart.