Caryl Pagel with Lily Hoang

Caryl Pagel and Lily Hoang
Caryl Pagel and Lily Hoang

This interview between Caryl Pagel and Lily Hoang is being published in conjunction with an Essay Press chapbook focused on dialogues with Cleveland State University Poetry Center authors, to be released on December 15th.

Caryl Pagel: A Bestiary is brimming with moments of memory, panic, humor, sarcasm, and joy but at its heart is an elegy (for your sister, for a kind of idealized love, and for the “other” Lily). Could you speak to the ways in which this grief accumulated and how nonfiction can work as a site of tribute or mourning?

Lily Hoang: My grief accumulated because—as I say in the book—I compartmentalize all my problems. I just focus on work. And then there must be a breaking point, and maybe that’s what this book was for me: all my avoidances from the past three years, coming forward in all their hurtful splendor. I think nonfiction is a natural space for tribute and mourning: both require an honest reckoning of another and of self.