Hoa Nguyen | An Interview      (page 6)

5. In your poems you often discuss love/sex, birth, blood, gods, women, trees, and fertility a lot. Also, in your husband Dale Smith’s book Black Stone, the first thing he mentions is the birth of your second son. How has becoming a mother changed your writing and the way you view yourself in relation to your old writing?

D used the occasion of Lent to organize notes around the idea of the shadow and death/birth in my last month of pregnancy, using a day-book form. I think it’s a courageous book and notable in how it engages birth and its intimacies (especially given that it is written by a man). Growing a child (pregnancy and nursing) and birthing was a concrete articulation of the linkages I spoke of earlier. It mires you in the present; it places you in an order of ancestral history; it’s profound and ordinary.

I recall a meditation I used to prepare for labor and birth. I thought of every woman in my human chain of being, the warrior courage they used to bring forward, protect, and nourish a live child that led, ultimately, woman to woman, to my life. I read or listened to stories upon stories about birth experiences, which was another kind of transmission. And another kind of narrative.

This prompted me to reevaluate my relationship to narrative in my poems and understand, differently, what Notley is after when she speaks of stealing story from the novel and putting it back into poetry where it originated. She writes: “What a service to poetry it might be to steal story away from the novel & give it back to rhythm & sound, give it back to the line.”

I have a lot of stolen goods in the poems. So much has been stolen—women’s sexuality, our power in birthing, reverence for the earth, etc.

I am trying to steal it back.

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