Nancy Lynee Woo / by Poetry Lab

nancywoo

NANCY @ A GLANCEY

NAME: Nancy Lynee Woo

RECENT PUBLICATIONS:
Synaesthesia Magazine
East Jasmine Review
Chaparral

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?

group

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 OF

Nancy 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.


THANK YOU NANCY!

Catch up with Nancy at NancyLyneeWoo.com

or find her on social media:

Facebook / Fancifulnance

Twitter @Fancifulnance