Andy Fitch with Brandon Som

Andy Fitch and Brandon Som
Andy Fitch and Brandon Som

After publishing my Sixty Morning Talks interview collection, I have begun work on a more focused, single-press interview series, offering a comprehensive oral history (a cinéma vérité, in prose) of Nightboat Books’ diverse and ambitious output over its first decade of publication. For this newer project, it particularly interests me to track interpersonal and intertextual constellations that have helped to shape the work done by Nightboat’s authors, publishers and designers. Nightboat will publish this interview collection late next year. This interview focuses on Brandon Som’s The Tribute Horse and was recorded August 21, 2015 and transcribed by Nicole Monforton.– Andy Fitch

Andy Fitch: In college, I read Houston Baker, Jr.’s claim that the sound of train wheels running across train tracks remains the dominant trope or onomatopoeic device of all blues music, of any blues idiom (musical or otherwise) still rippling outwards in ever-more diversified cultural profusion. I loved the breath of Baker’s sweeping structuralist claim, regardless of its accuracies. I had forgotten about it until reading The Tribute Horse. So I wonder if you could begin to describe what prompted, or how you went about, sounding the sea here. And of course, we could ask whether one ever can sound the Pacific’s depths. But could you address sounding that sea, the passage across that sea (or singing beyond the genius of the sea, if we want to consider points of literary reference) by bringing in, as this book does, whatever personal, social, historical, literary/aesthetic impulses seem to fit best?

Brandon Som with Nicholas Wong

Nicholas Wong
Nicholas Wong

In 2014, Kaya Press celebrated 20 years of publishing innovative Asian Pacific American and Asian diasporic literature. Since relocating to Los Angeles in 2011, Kaya continues its mission to publish “challenging, thoughtful, and provocative” work. In this conversation, Brandon Som talks to Nicholas Wong about his book, Crevasse, published by Kaya Press.

Brandon Som: Crevasse begins with a quote from Maurice Merleau-Ponty: “… my body itself is a thing, which I do not observe: in order to be able to do so, I should need the use of a second body which itself would be unobservable.” Your poems seem to take up this conundrum of body and perception as a kind of challenge. In the poem “Trio with Hsia Yü,” you write, “Use a pen to write on the body, / then use the body to unbind // the heart. Roll the heart / over a few pages of grammar // and see whose rules are cruder.” Here, the speaker is both a writer of the body as well as a body that writes. Can you talk a little about the book’s project in regards to the body?