NANCY @ A GLANCEY
East Jasmine Review
CHAPBOOK: Rampant (2014)
FAVORITE POET(S): Patricia Smith and Lyn Hejinian
FAVORITE POETRY BOOK: The Moon is Always Female by Marge Piercy
CURRENTLY READING: Nancy Scott and Annelyse Gelman
EDUCATION: Graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in Sociology and a minor in World Literature, I only took one general creative writing class in college.
WHO ARE YOU?
My name is Nancy Lynée Woo and would you believe I used to be nearly mute? Today, it seems like I can’t stop talking. I am very interested in the space in between these two poles because I see poetry as a means of expression that has the power to change lives.
HOW DID YOU FIRST HEAR ABOUT THE POETRY LAB? WHEN WAS YOUR FIRST EVENT?
I stumbled across the Poetry Lab right as it was beginning—January 2013. In fact, I was at the very first meeting, which involved bubbles, Nerf guns, a boxer, silly putty and, of course, books, prompts and poetry. I found The Poetry Lab through Facebook, our ever-pervasive god of social media, and it was one of those weird alignments from the poetry gods because Danielle started the Lab at exactly the same time I decided I actually wanted to pursue the study of poetry. I hadn’t known exactly where to look, but I knew I needed to find the people. Luckily, the Facebook gods floated Poetry Lab my way, and I have been a member ever since. (Longest-standing regular member, represent.) I have been to almost every single Poetry Lab meeting, and since attending The Poetry Lab, I have been published in multiple literary magazines, published a chapbook, recorded a spoken word CD, been a featured reader with various organizations, and started a social justice-based literary press—as well as making friends I would hop trains for, which is, of course, the best part of it all.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST SIGNIFICANT SUCCESS AT THE POETRY LAB?
I think it was getting my first poetry publication. For most of my life, I had written in the dark corners of my room, squirreling poetry away like a bad habit. Meeting other writers and being able to explore and discuss the writing life opened me up to the possibility of “coming out of the poetry closet.” One Poetry Lab in particular, the first submissions session, was immensely helpful in helping me learn how to navigate the very scary world of submissions and rejections. Once I got over the initial hump of deciding to send my work out to literary journals, I accepted that to be a writer means you must share your work with more people than just your imaginary friends… It seems like a “duh!” moment but I’m sure some of you know what it feels like to want to just hide under a rock forever. (I still feel this way regularly; the only difference is that I now feel like I have the support and understanding of my writing community—it is not so intimidating when you see other writers you respect going through the same motions.) So yeah, the jump from just writing secretly by myself to being published was a pretty big success for me.
HOW HAS THE POETRY LAB CHANGED YOUR IDEA OF COMMUNITY?
Drastically. I can’t even begin to express how being connected to a community of writers has changed my life—but I will try.
For starters, meeting people like Sarah, Alex and Tina (staples of the Lab for a while) has given me an invaluable sense of closeness and camaraderie. This feeling of community is priceless. Since then, I have become involved in many of the worthwhile literary projects in Long Beach and beyond, like Gatsby Books, Cadence Collective, Sadie Girl Press, Bank-Heavy Press, Half Off Books, Read On Till Morning and many more in the greater southern California area. I have met so many amazing writers, readers, editors and publishers. The unifying factor is that all of these people in the writing community seem to have something important to say—something worth listening to. I have not only become a better writer since finding the Lab, I have also become a better listener and a better supporter of the community I love.
Also, since meeting the incomparable Sarah Thursday, we have started a social justice-based literary press called Lucid Moose Lit. This project is just now underway, but it has given me a sense of purpose and direction in my life—it is something I feel is meaningful and worth committing my time and energy toward. So yeah, I guess you could say the Poetry Lab opened up the door for me to find the community I was looking for.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED AT THE POETRY LAB?
Many things. One, I learned how to edit. Uh doi. I’ve been a prose writer and editor for many years, but poetry is a totally different mythological creature—sometimes it has wings, sometimes a tail, sometimes it’s blue, and sometimes it’s polka dotted. I remember the first time I brought a poem in to Danielle and Murray (waaaaaay back when) and they slashed my gasping three page poem down to a little more than one page—thank the Lords of mercy. With skill, tact and compassion, they helped me look more objectively at my own work, and since then I have been, like, on editing spree after editing spree. It is my hypothesis that you can’t call yourself a “real writer” (whatever that means) unless you edit. The editing process is where you get to investigate your own writing and push it to be the best it can be. I am still learning this all the time, but editing my own work well was something I could not do on my own. I didn’t have the knowledge or the insight. I needed more pairs of eyes to help me see where to go in my own writing—and I’m eternally grateful I found them.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MOMENT IN THE POETRY LAB?
Poetry dance party. Hands down. Hell yeah.
REMNANTS OFNancy Lynee Woo
Strong Dutch stock Oriental frame Delicate French America The silk trade The fur trade Dowry History books Of bad ghosts And good ghosts Of pull mules And tanks Fireworks Gunpowder Incense Canons Of slant eyes Of fat cheek Of pointed chin Chalk Remnants of Concubines A doctor’s daughter Birthing pains Coal stoves A Confederate flag A Jade bracelet A plate of goulash Turkey dinner Feather pen Calligraphy White paint Quill Louisiana porches California summers Monsoon daybreak Traffic All the rivers All the floods All the droughts All the blood The first clock The 9-to-5 wristwatch Faded photos And forgetting Remnants of forgetting And forgetting Of stories And no stories Remnants of brooding in this body This body is a rubber band stretched across the Pacific, pulled taut, drumming across borders pinned to the secret heart of China looping through the tracks of Europe back to the land of the free my soul a wave that crashes upon each foreign shore one brown eye here one green eye there and one blue eye the same color as the sea
ABOUT "REMNANTS OF"
DID SOMETHING YOU LEARNED IN THE POETRY LAB HELP YOU TO WRITE/REVISE THIS POEM?
Yes, absolutely. I brought this poem into workshop one night and Danielle helped me reformat the poem as a list poem. The content was virtually the same but I had it formatted differently. I really liked the suggestion to just make a list of the items without any filler words around them (I had not been introduced to any list poems before). I would not have stumbled upon this edit on my own. It really helped simplify the poem, and Danielle even “let me” use the world soul in it, so, like, thanks Danielle!
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR POETRY STYLE?
I don’t know if I can yet describe my poetry style because I tend to experiment a lot with tone, voice and formatting. So maybe I can say my poetry style is experimental? I like writing prose poems. A lot. I also really like writing persona poems. And I tend to write toward the question of culture and identity. Form plays a pretty big role in my work because I think the way a poem is formatted can take a major role in the performance of the work. For example, I have some poems that are really spacious, somewhat light and distributed chaotically across the page, and these poems have a much different feeling than my prose poems (dense and tight). I try to consciously format a poem to complement the words, images and evocations of a piece.