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10 Questions for Andy Sia

“Once a security guard caught me practicing my art
in the nearby park. He instructed me to stop my obscene
driveling. I paid him no heed, sent a bubble towards him
like a free-spirited man in a parachute. He was
unmoved. I lose hope, sometimes. I grow weary…”
from “At age 10, I showcase my ability by blowing spit bubbles,” Summer 2018 (Vol. 59, Issue 2)

Tell us about one of the first pieces you wrote.
I began writing poems in high school, and I still remember the first poem I wrote. It came about after a long drive home alone one night. It was late and I’d not taken this route before, and the quiet road glowed orange and stretched on and on like a dream. When I got home, without really understanding why, I knew I had to somehow capture this experience of driving back home. No other form made sense at that moment, but poetry. So I wrote a poem.

What writer(s) or works have influenced the way you write now?
Writers that have been influential include Matthew Olzmann, Alfian Sa’at, Lucie Brock-Broido, Ross Gay, Carol Ann Duffy, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Justin Chin, Brenda Shaughnessy, and others.

What other professions have you worked in?
Up until recently, I’ve worked as an administrator. Besides working in administration, I’ve been an environmental educator, a soil geochemistry research assistant, and a tutor. Come this August, I’ll be pursuing my MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Mississippi! 

What did you want to be when you were young?
I grew up reading mysteries – beginning from Enid Blyton’s Five Find-Outers series, then graduating to Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, then to Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie novels – and was set on becoming a detective, based on my very fantastical notions of what the job entailed. Never mind I was a bit of a scatterbrain as a kid and couldn’t even brave being alone in the house, much less pursuing dangerous, enterprising villains.

What inspired you to write this piece?
This poem is one in a larger series of “At age 10” poems, all featuring the child persona who arrives at various conclusions about the nature of the self, life, and the world. I wrote this series of poems, thinking about my childhood and the experience of childhood more broadly. How much of my childhood belonged to myself? In what ways was I bound and freed by language? How much of my joy was contingent on what I did not know, and what I did know? What did I know, and what would my child self – shaking his head in exasperation – now tell me?

Is there a city or place, real or imagined, that influences your writing?
Brunei, where I was born and raised. Implicitly and explicitly, most of my poems are set in Brunei. Its natural landscape – the rainforest, in particular – and its flora and fauna – the sensitive plant, rambutan, monkeys, millipedes – come up frequently in my writing.

Do you have any rituals or traditions that you do in order to write?
Not sure if this qualifies as a ritual or tradition, but whenever I get stuck on a piece, I go out, if I can, for a walk or a run. That usually helps me get unstuck on the page. More generally, I’ve a bunch of writing preferences. I prefer to write on computer than on paper, in a place with internet access than without, in my own room or space than in public spaces, and etc.

If you could work in another art form what would it be?
I’d design clothes. The idea of making something beautiful that has direct use and function in the lives of others is an appealing one. Also, I enjoy fashion!

What are you working on currently?
I’m working on a series of anachronistic persona poems, wherein the personas are Biblical characters.  Say, as one example, Samson as a jock in high school. I’ve also been writing odes to a bunch of things in my life that are, well, praiseworthy, but don’t often register immediately as such. Things like the nasal spray for my hay fever, and the fan in my room, and loose change.

What are you reading right now?
Zen Cho’s Spirts Abroad and Karen Tei Yamashita’s Through the Arc of the Rain Forest, both of which are just delightful.

ANDY SIA is a Bruneian of Chinese descent. His poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Colorado Review, Meridian, and the Missouri Review. He will be a John and Renée Grisham Fellow and an MFA candidate in poetry at the University of Mississippi this August.

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