What can you reveal about Butcher's Tree (Black Ocean, 2012), your forthcoming poetry collection?
I think about someone like Grendel or the Monkey god the same way I sometimes think of my favorite wild animals. These creatures are so much a part of the way I understand affects, and they come through distorted in so many things that people say and do and create. The vast difference is that we tend to manipulate and use animals for our own ends, and they suffer. Mythological creatures don't suffer, so physics would say, since they "don't exist," but this book is how they do exist. They do suffer, because they have been made our animals, and we are animals, concentric in all things.
"Poetry hurts narrative. It likes the wound body. It is not opposed to wrapping the wound body up in gauze ghosts." This selection from your chapbook, Ugly Fish, has crawled into me. Will not leave me. Do you think this "hurt" is something positive? Does poem have a place within narrative's "wound body?"
It can be mixed with pleasure, and often cannot be extricated. It's hard to think about, because there are many varieties and valences of wounds, physical and not physical. Poetry is what gets translated in loss, Ben Friedlander once said (I think). Another famous poet said that all poetry is an exercise in failure. I don't consider wounds failures, though they do fail, and narratives are not failures, but we as living beings do not like to see the body for its wounds. The image of wound is in the shape of our sensing and speaking orifices, and these are very prone to failure.
There are instances in which the narrator of Ugly Fish acknowledges and refutes her gender. There were moments when I read gender as something parasitic--something suffocating. I also felt your use of brackets effectively reinforced that suffocated condition. There are male writers who seem to inscribe gender into their pages: A WOMAN IS THIS. A GIRL IS THIS. Does your narrator seek to destroy these kinds of inscriptions of gender? What does your narrator want to achieve?
I think the narrator is annoyed that gender is so rhetorically effective and caustic. The narrator doesn't want to achieve anything, but perhaps let the abrasions show, pick at them for the monkey games that they are. I find that playing with binaries, really playing each part against another, is natural and energizing. Reality is more gray than gender norms wish it to be, even for "normal" people.
Do you believe in dangerous poetry/prose? Should we ever ignore poetry/prose?
I'm not sure. I think ideas are dangerous, not poetry or prose. Like firecrackers. Depends on how it's used.
What five books do you recommend most often?
Bluets, With Deer, Black Life, uuuuuum. Elizabeth Grosz stuff. Depends on what I'm reading at the time. Right now I am reading Edmond Jabes, which Carrie Lorig recommended to me. So I recommend him.
What is your favorite animal? Why?
I love the Hovercat. I love all animals. Even the ugly ones, because they are divine.
Feng Sun Chen's first book is Butcher's Tree from Black Ocean (now available for preorder). She is also the author of chapbooks Ugly Fish from Radioactive Moat Press, Arcane Carnal Knowledge from Pangur Ban Party (and Night Vegetable Press), and blud, forthcoming from Spork Press. Recent poems do and will appear on her blog, in Conduit, >Kill Author, Claudius App, and other places. She is currently a graduate assistant and MFA student at the University of Minnesota, and sometimes blogs about potatoes and art for Montevidayo.
Ugly Fish is now available from Radioactive Moat Press as a downloadable PDF: