Cynthia Arrieu-King and Lily Hoang

Cindy Arrieu-King and Lily Hoang
Cynthia Arrieu-King and Lily Hoang

This conversation between 1913 Press authors Cynthia Arrieu-King and Lily Hoang began with their latest books. Unlikely Conditions (1913 Press) is Cynthia Arrieu-King’s collaboration with the late Hillary Gravendyk. Lily Hoang’s A Bestiary was published by Cleveland State University Poetry Center.

Cynthia Arrieu-King: Where did these essays begin for you? What does essay writing allow you to do that poetry might not? Or does it matter to you at all?

Lily Hoang: Form and genre are really important to me, actually. I am insistent when I call these essays—and it all goes back to etymology, right? To essai: to trial, to experiment—even though it’s already been classified as both poetry and fiction. The essay declares itself as a challenge, to self and to form, by definition. This isn’t fiction’s concern, at all, and I’m a fiction writer, first and foremost, and so the rhetorical qualities of the essay—its ethos, pathos, and logos—were also foreign concepts to me, things that I had to learn. I think the essay demands a self-rigor that isn’t necessary in fiction, which is not to say that fiction isn’t rigorous! (I’m not really qualified to talk about poetry in the least so I’ll leave that kind of thinking to the poets and scholars.) All of which is to say: the essays in A Bestiary are essays, intentionally so, I argue they adhere to form and follow the rules of the genre. But that wasn’t in question at all, sorry.

Leif Haven and Mia You

Leif Haven and Mia You
Leif Haven and Mia You

Leif Haven’s Arcane Rituals From the Future was published this spring by 1913 Press, selected by Claudia Rankine for the publisher’s 2014 Prize for First Book. Mia You’s I, Too, Dislike It is forthcoming this year from 1913 Press. Leif, based in Oakland, Calif., and Mia, based in Utrecht, The Netherlands, met for the first time and conducted this conversation via Google Drive.

Mia You: Hi, Leif! I really enjoyed reading Arcane Rituals From the Future, and I was especially struck by your pervasive use of the imperative. This makes sense, in thinking about your collection as “instructions” or “procedures” for rituals, but it struck me especially because the imperative, counterintuitively for me, doesn’t feel imposing, nor aggressive, through your truly remarkable handling of tone. Why did you feel that the “tense” of the arcane future should be the second person?

Leif Haven: With these Arcane Rituals, I’m glad that you didn’t feel that it was imposing or aggressive. Rather than be prescriptive or directive, I think they are something closer to recipes for magic, and they can be read and interpreted as needed. This especially applies to the “Instructions” poems (some here and here).