The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Jennifer Anne Champion
By Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé
Writing gives me agency. I’ve had a few paintings and films made using me as a story by other people over the years. Ex-lovers really. I was twenty-four when I decided writing was for me. I step out of being someone’s muse and into being a creator. It’s very satisfying to be in control and to produce work you know deserves to be out there.
Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?
I am working on my second book, Caterwaul, which will be released in 2016 under an imprint of Math Paper Press. I would describe Caterwaul as that feeling in the middle of the night when you hear something howling, yearning for a fight. The poems are about terror, desire and completion. The recognition and acceptance of the sounds that come not from the outside, but perhaps from inside you.
I am also working as the multimedia editor for the upcoming Singapore Poetry Archive. Think of it as poetry foundation for Singapore.
Describe your writing aesthetic.
I write anything and everything. I put aside a minimum of three hours a day to write and I don’t tell myself what to produce. The result is that I’m working on various bits and pieces at once. When a work is fully developed, I release it.
I fight with myself about producing work that is personal. Coming from spoken word origins, I’m aware of the perception that the bulk of our subject matter is deeply self-serving so I am often terrified of being self-indulgent. I try to remember to play with words. To pick the new and tentative over the old and well-constructed.
Who are your favorite authors?
I love Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury, Miranda July and Chuck Palahniuk’s earlier work. Of translated works I am also fond of Zang Yueran. Of Singaporean writers, I am very fond of Amanda Lee Koe, Alfian Sa’at, Victoria Lim, and Ruth Tang who is not yet published but is a brilliant poet in the making.
I think the best long-form story-telling is still happening in British, American and Japanese television. I’m a big fan of Penny Dreadful, Hannibal, House, Fringe, The X-Files, Kimi Wa Petto, Sherlock, Weeds, True Detective, Black Mirror. I’d love to write a dark fantasy TV series one day. The secret I think, is fluidity and generous injections of humour.
What’s the most challenging piece of writing you’ve attempted? Tell us why.
Caterwaul is challenging. It’s very different from my spoken word material. I think people who have followed my work over the last three years are going to be pretty shocked when it comes out. I’m scared of Caterwaul. I’m scared of what it brings out in me. Which is why I’m taking my time with it.
The show I’m writing and performing for the Singapore Writer’s Festival is also very challenging. I’m revisiting my autobiographical piece ‘Ballet Class’ from a show I did in 2013. This show is 45 minutes of dance, poetry, and blood. I’ve told my producers, Checkpoint Theatre, that I need to get fit to perform this. I’ve been attending open classes at the Singapore Dance Theatre Company. My body has forgotten a lot of things in the 14 years I’ve not been dancing. I can barely do the steps. But I have three months to lock this down.
What’s your idea of bliss?
Waking up next to someone you love.
What makes you angry, and I mean all-out-smash-the-china raving mad?
Poorly made-up lies. I hate bad construction.
What books would you take with you on a three-month retreat in the boondocks?
Blank slates. I’d take books by writers I’d not read of as yet. And a couple of blank notebooks and pens.
Your house is burning down. What’s the most important thing you’d want to take with you?
My rabbits. Polo Limpeh Champion, Nicky, and President Snow Panda.
Describe your life philosophy. In a sentence.
You don’t ‘deserve’ anything. You don’t deserve better love, money, sex, the life you lead. No, you want it. Now go get it.
Jennifer Anne Champion is a writer and performance poet. She has been described by Juice Magazine as gifted with “swift, animated style”. Jennifer has also performed her work in Edinburgh, Scotland, and Israel. In 2015, she released her first solo work of poetry, A History of Clocks (Red Wheelbarrow Books). Her poetry is anthologized in A Luxury We Cannot Afford and SingPoWriMo, with articles having appeared in Esquire Magazine. Her curatorial essays have also been published by galleries in Italy, Switzerland and Singapore. She has represented her country in location-based poetry repositories, Musicity and Text In The City.