Muriel Leung is an Asian American poet who defies convention and form, who adds whimsy to everyday objects and exposes the darkness behind them, and who pushes the boundaries between the real and the normal and the hyperbolic and absurd in her work. Her first collection, Bone Confetti (Noemi Press), toys with the magical yet apocalyptic and the romantic yet grotesque; it is both a strut through a flowery meadow and a devastating walk through the ruins of a ravaged city. I joined Leung in her adorable Echo Park, Los Angeles apartment for this conversation in racial politics, Asian American poetics, labor, and grief.
MV: What was the process behind writing Bone Confetti? As a fairly young poet, how did you balance writing and coming-of-age in your 20s?
ML: I wrote the bulk of Bone Confetti during my MFA, which I started in 2013. I moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana from Queens, New York, which is where I grew up. I had the great fortune of having a wealth of different experiences, to work with different people and communities beforeLouisiana. It was such a big move and shift—from going to a chaotic city that constantly displaces people and is very difficult to live in—to then move to Louisiana where the pace of life is different. Baton Rouge has a different set of racial politics, where being an Asian woman there meant something entirely different than in NY.
I also began to understand the history of resilience in Louisiana, which has seen so much social, political, and environmental turmoil. I saw how much this was embedded in the fabric of its history that if there is a storm coming, people know they have to cook all the meat in their freezer because the power might go out, so they just throw a big barbecue. The attitude of survival in Baton Rouge is very different from NYC, which sometimes doesn’t know what to do with itself other than facilitate high productivity. I think both city’s spirits contributed to Bone Confetti, which was a very important transitional point in my life—a whole wealth of experience and language. Continue reading