October 24, 2021

KITAAB

Connecting Asian writers with global readers

The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Anne Lee Tzu Pheng

2 min read

By Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé

Anne Lee Tzu Pheng PixLet’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

To discover what I am thinking and then, sometimes, to know why. By thinking I mean, also, what I am feeling, with regard to what the words excavate. There have been long periods when I was not writing anything creative. Those times seem to me quite lost, as if I have not existed. No other activity gives me an experience of being thoroughly grounded in my being. This is a relatively recent realization. And so, I think I write because it is to feel more alive. Don’t get me wrong; it is not always a conscious choice, and most of the time I am too lazy or cowardly to make the effort! I think human beings are mostly wired to live on the surface 40% of our being; it takes a lot to dive into the nether 60%. But when we do, we begin to know who and why we are.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

The most recent work was the most fun thing I’ve ever put together. The book called Standing In The Corner, poems from a real childhood was published last year (2014). This is the only time I set out deliberately to make a collection. It started quite by chance when something joggled memory and made me realize that many experiences of my childhood had to do with an element of stress, surprise, or humour. It was the humour part that especially motivated me. I found the style of the writing vastly different from my usual, and a natural aptitude in handling rhythms that were metrically pronounced.

At one point I wondered who I was writing for! It wasn’t for a child reader; it was more for an adult who had grown up like me in the 1950s – but would that adult see the point of the simple language and nursery-like rhythms? In the end I thought I would just entertain myself! I wasn’t trying to “achieve” anything but to take a romp back into an earlier time over which I now seemed to have more control through capturing it in words! It was a chance to master a time when I had felt particularly lacking in control of events and at the mercy of other people. Joining the dots to make sense of those earlier experiences actually activated my sense of the comic which was what probably saved me from being a sociopath. As a child I often felt at odds with what was happening around me or was expected of me.

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