PUSHCART DARLINGS: FOGLIFTER PRESS INTERVIEW WITH YUJANE CHEN
As part of celebrating Foglifter’s recent Pushcart nominees, we interviewed the writers! Our third person is Yujane Chen, published in Volume 4 Issue 1!
What are you currently reading?
I’ve been rereading a lot of poetry collections that I’ve loved this past year—Invasive species by Marwa Helal, Soft Science by Franny Choi, and Cenzontle by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo. I’ve also been reading a lot of good prose lately—especially Carceral Capitalism by Jackie Wang and How To Write An Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee.
Are you working on a project, currently? Describe it.
For the past few months I’ve been working on a zine revolving around a long cento that tries to reconfigure queer migration in a fishy, watery way. I’ve had so much fun working on it. So far the cento is the longest poem (to date) that I’ve written.
Do you have a particular writing ritual or habit? What is it?
Something I’ve been doing ever since I took a workshop with Myung Mi Kim this summer is writing, as much as possible, in my journal every day. Even if it’s literally just for two or three minutes on the bus. Doing this feels like cataloguing myself through certain writing exercises I like to do, while making sure that my body still works with language in some sort of consistent way.
If someone told you that they want to be a writer, what advice would you give them?
Honestly, on most days, I don’t really consider myself to be a Writer with a capital W because I don’t have a book or make a living through writing. But I’ve been trying to lean more into the idea that being a writer can be whatever you want it to mean to you, and if that looks like writing poems on your phone in your notes app or sharing drafts on a Google Doc with your friend and no one else, then that’s enough. You’re a writer. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
What experience thus far has contributed most to your education, as a writer/person?
I feel very lucky that I came up through slam as a youth poet and that slam was my entryway into poetry and writing, because being on a slam team and learning how to write in community has everything to do with the writer and the person I am today.
What do you believe is the role of the poet/writer in this cultural climate?
I think, like any other moment in time, our responsibility is to bring people together and ask them to pay closer attention to the world around us. I’ve been thinking a lot about the words of abolitionists like Mariame Kaba and Ruth Wilson Gilmore—that abolition requires imagination. As people who work with language and possibility, I think it’s our responsibility to imagine new ways of creating, naming, and moving through the world.
When you aren’t writing, what are you doing?
I’m currently still in school, so if I’m not in class, I’m probably studying for midterms or writing a paper that’s due soon. Outside of school, I am a homebody who loves watching Terrace House on Netflix and playing Neopets (yes, it’s still the same site from 15 years ago).
Yujane Chen is a queer migrant alien from Taiwan. Their poems are forthcoming or have appeared in Black Warrior Review, the Shade Journal, Bettering American Poetry, & others. A recipient of fellowships from Winter Tangerine and Pink Door, they are currently earning a B.A. in Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley, where they are an intern with the Multicultural Community Center on campus. Find them online @yujane_c
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