By Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé
To quote Janis Joplin, “I’m a victim of my own insides”. But that’s it really. Ever since I was a child I engaged with the world emotionally. I felt grief intensely, I felt joy intensely and as I grew up, heartbreak was paralysing, highs were never enough and at some point, that intensity needs to get out in some way to keep yourself sane. Writing is my method of coping with my insides.
Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?
Love is an Empty Barstoolcame out 6 years after my first collection. What I love about this collection is that it is compact, and captures a precise time in my life when I was questioning if I had the capacity to be as vulnerable as I needed to be in order to let someone in or and as brave as I needed to be to let someone go. The title encapsulates it for me. If the barstool is empty, you’re drinking alone, maybe because someone has left but there’s also the possibility of the right person sitting down next to you, which is exactly what being in my twenties felt like. So it’s a little time capsule in a sense. It’s a collection that feels bluesy and a little drunk and lonely.
It’s also significant for me because many of those poems are Mango Dollies pieces, and performing with Anjana is always special because she’s my best friend and gets what I might have been feeling when I wrote them better than anyone else could. When she puts a song to them, it’s always a little bit of extra magic. So it’s a songbook, and a snapshot, and I’m pretty happy with it.
Describe your writing aesthetic.
Lyrical, raw, musical, honest, drunk, secretly wanting to be Bukowski in bright red lipstick and a dress.
Who are your favorite authors?
This is a real mixed bag of treats. Anne Sexton is the reason I came to poetry. Shakespeare, Charles Bukowski, Alvin Pang, Jane Austen, Kim Addonizio, Cyril Wong, Enid Blyton, Tania De Rozario, Sujata Bhatt, Tarquin Hall, Dorianne Laux, Yehuda Amichai, Pablo Neruda, Diana Wynne Jones, Wilkie Collins.
What’s the most challenging piece of writing you’ve attempted? Tell us why.
My grandmother’s obituary. There was nothing I could say that would convey anything real about what she meant to me. For once, I didn’t have the words.
What’s your idea of bliss?
A bowl of Maggi Mee Curry, a bottle of Lagavullan 16 years, and Dirty Dancing on the television.
What makes you angry, and I mean all-out-smash-the-china raving mad?
Being silenced on the basis of my gender or race.
What book/s would you take with you on a three-month retreat in the boondocks?
My three favourite anthologies of poetry edited by Neil Astley: “Being Alive”, “Staying Alive” and “Being Human”. And one Enid Blyton title, because she is my comfort.
Your house is burning down. What’s the most important thing you’d want to take with you?
Describe your life philosophy. In a sentence.
With mirth and laughter, let old wrinkles come. (And let my liver rather heat with wine) 🙂
Pooja Nansi is a poet who believes in the power that performance can lend to the written word. She has published two collections of poetry, Stilletto Scars (2006, WordForward) and Love is An Empty Barstool (2013, Math Paper Press), co-edited a poetry anthology of Singaporean Poetry and co-authored a teacher’s resource for Singaporean poetry. She has also participated in poetry projects such as Speechless with the British Council, where she engaged in a month-long tour of the UK to explore issues surrounding freedom of speech. Since April 2013, she has been curating a monthly spoken word and poetry event called Speakeasy at Artistry, which has showcased both emerging and established poets from places as diverse as Burma and Botswana. She also runs the Singapore chapter of Burn After Reading. The original London chapter has been run by poet Jacob Sam La Rose since 2011. Burn After Reading is a collective started for young emerging poets (aged 16-24) who are encouraged to write, read, perform and publish as widely as possible. The collective celebrates a diverse range of poetics from ‘spoken word’ to ‘page’ and points in between. Since 2009, she has also been one half of the spoken word and music duo The Mango Dollies along with singer-songwriter Anjana Srinivasan.