Victoria Chang, the prominent poet and Antioch MFA core faculty is a longtime advocate for “literary citizenship”—she says we ought to create writing worlds full of collaboration, generosity, and mutual aid. Furthering this cause, last year, she served as poetry editor for the New York Times and used her tenure focused on bringing in new voices. Back in 2021, we interviewed Victoria on the Seed Field Podcast, and in the years since, these themes have only become more important. In this conversation from our archives, we explore what being a good literary citizen means to Victoria, how this ethos has influenced her own work and career, and how building a more inclusive writing community benefits everyone.
Visit Common Thread to read our recent article, “Victoria Chang Wins 2023 Chowdhury Prize in Literature.”
Visit our website to learn more about Antioch’s MFA in Creative Writing.
You can purchase the books we talked about in the show; The Trees Witness Everything, Asian American Poetry: The Next Generation, Love, Love, OBIT, and Dear Memory: Letters on Writing, Silence, and Grief.
Host: Jasper Nighthawk
Editor: Lauren Instenes
Recorded September 2, 2021, via Riverside.fm. First released September 8, 2021, and re-released April 19, 2023.
Re-Release Editor: Johanna Case
Digital Design: Mira Mead
Web Content Coordination: Jen Mont
Work-Study Intern: Sierra-Nicole E. DeBinion
A special thanks to Karen Hamilton, Amelia Bryan, and Melinda Garland
To access a full transcript and find more information about this and other episodes, visit theseedfield.org. To get updates and be notified about future episodes, follow Antioch University on Facebook.
Victoria Chang’s forthcoming book of poems, With My Back to the World, is forthcoming in 2024 from Farrar, Straus & Giroux in the U.S. and Corsair in the U.K. Her latest poetry book is The Trees Witness Everything (Copper Canyon Press, 2022). OBIT (Copper Canyon Press, 2020), which was named a New York Times Notable Book and received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and the PEN Voelcker Award. It was also longlisted for a National Book Award and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Griffin International Poetry Prize. Her nonfiction book is Dear Memory (Milkweed Editions, 2021).
Best Of: Victoria Chang on Literary Citizenship Episode Transcript
Jasper Nighthawk: Hi, this is Jasper. This week we’re dipping into the archives and re-releasing one of our favorite episodes. My interview with the poet, author and educator Victoria Chang. Victoria is core faculty in the MFA in creative writing here at Antioch University, but she also does so much out in the broader literary world.
Since first releasing this episode, lots of great things have been happening in Victoria’s career. We recently published an article about a lot of this, which we’ll link to in the show notes, but the short version is that Victoria served as poetry editor for the New York Times. She just won the prestigious 2023 Chow Prize in literature and her latest collection.
The Trees Witness everything was named one of the best books of 2022 by the New Yorker and the Guardian. April is National Poetry Month, and we thought that this was really the perfect time to revisit this conversation and to meditate on the ways Victoria Chang suggests that we let the concept of citizenship guide us and help us to give back to our communities.
I think you’ll get a lot out of this.
So without further ado, let’s roll the tape.
Jasper Nighthawk: This is the Seed Field podcast. The show where Antiochians share their knowledge, tell their stories, and come together to win victories for humanity. I’m your host, Jasper Nighthawk, and today we’re joined by Victoria Chang. Victoria is the author of five poetry collections, including most recently, Obit. She’s long been active across the literary world from organizing the Idlewild Writers Week to serving for many years on the National Book Critics Circle. Here at Antioch, Victoria has been serving as the chair of our MFA in creative writing. I’m super excited to talk with Victoria about her work, her writing, and especially the thread that runs through it. The idea of literary citizenship. Welcome to the podcast, Victoria.
Victoria Chang: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Jasper: Victoria, before we jump into all the questions that I want to ask you, I feel like I should give our listeners a little bit of backstory and lay my cards on the table. I’ve known you for about four years. I met you actually the very first evening of when I started my own MFA at the Antioch MFA in creative writing in Los Angeles, that you now are the chair of. The way that the program you run is structured is that you have these two 10-day residencies, one in June and one in December, and the rest of the year, the students are able to be wherever they need to be in the globe, but then, during those 10-day residencies, which is why it’s called a low-residency program, everybody comes to campus, at least when there isn’t COVID.
That’s where I was. I was just starting in this program and I came into the hall for the opening night banquet and sat down at a table and struck up a conversation with this very interesting person who I didn’t know if they were a student or if they were another faculty. Later I realized, when you got up and read these brilliant poems for like 20 minutes at the very end of the dinner as the featured reader, I realized that you were actually a very prominent poet and a great poet and that I’d been talking really to a great writer, and it was such a special way to start the MFA for me, and it was even better when you later came back as core faculty in poetry, and by the time I graduated, you were chair of the program.
I go back to that first night because I feel like you really brought me into this world of writers that I would feel welcomed into again and again of, this was a place where people would take me seriously and be kind to me even if it turned out they were like the person who was being celebrated that night, that you would take me like a very first year, first night of being a student, you would take me seriously. I think that guides me into my first question, which is, I think of that as an example of literary citizenship, and of creating that literary community, but would you please define for our listeners what literary citizenship means to you?
Victoria: I think it can mean many things, and I think it can mean different things to different people, and also may change in its meaning to an individual over their lifespan as well. For me, I think of literary citizenship as very simply just remembering that even when you’re writing anything, you’re not writing only in a vacuum, and you’re not writing just for yourself and for the benefits of yourself, that you’re a part of a larger community that you should try and give back to in some way that you might feel comfortable. For me actually, at a larger level, literary citizenship I think over time has become this way in which I navigate the world and live the world in terms of building something or helping other people and enabling other people, helping to build, assisting, whatever words that we want to use, to build a more equitable and just community.
One that when I was younger, I would’ve loved to have been a part of, but obviously, wasn’t a part of. I think for me, that’s how I’ve ended up thinking about literary citizenship, is like if we had a clean slate, or as I always say in our program, if we had a table with just a bunch of butcher paper on top, like, how would you actually make something, versus, “Oh, here’s this thing that’s totally broken, how shall we fix it?” Like the way that I think about anything that I’m working on is, “Okay, let’s imagine something totally different, and let’s imagine what we might be able to build if we didn’t have any constraints. Then we’ll go from there.” That to me is what literary citizenship is, building a better, more equitable, and just world that I would have liked to have been a part of.
Jasper: Victoria, could you tell us some of the specific actions and activities that could go into actually embodying literary citizenship, like on the level of big institutions, but also the smaller actions that like an individual writer can take?
Victoria: There are so many institutions, and even, I guess I wouldn’t even call them institutions, but they’re smaller communities. It’s really at every single level and every single place, and I always say in the program that our social justice mission is like a crystal in which every decision gets refracted through. When it comes to literary citizenship, I think of it as the same thing. I do hundreds of things in one day, I send out and receive hundreds of emails in one day. Even just the way that I communicate with people is a way of literary citizenship or practicing my own poetics of citizenship and community, and people email me all the time.
I get emails from younger writers or people I don’t know, it’s like, you could ignore all of those emails and probably be fine. I actually respond to all of them, unless I forget, but I really do try and respond to all of them. I think of mentoring younger BIPOC women, poets like myself a lot, I try and write blurbs for those writers as much as I can. I’m constantly doing that work. I think a lot of older poets do that work today too. Not at all to pat myself on the back, but that’s just one example that I take really seriously.
Jasper: This generosity is a remarkable thing too. It doesn’t seem like everybody is embodying this at all times. I think it’s like the opposite of another pattern that we see, which is that people once they attain a level of success, they pull the ladder up behind them, or they don’t help others to achieve the level that they’ve achieved.
Victoria: Absolutely. I think how one behaves on social media and how access is a big issue for me. I mean, granted one doesn’t want to be so accessible, but people can contact me pretty readily, and they do and ask for help and things like that. I just think sharing things that other people are doing on social media and recognizing that there’s so many marginalized poets and marginalized in so many different ways and marginalized writers, and having been on both sides of that in terms of the books that I’ve published, sometimes I’ve gotten zero attention, and last year has gotten an enormous– my book Obit has gotten an enormous amount of attention.
Recognizing that there’re always a lot of other books that people are publishing or palms that are out in the world that just maybe need someone to share those to the world. I try and do a lot of that work on Twitter, for example. I try and read very broadly and widely and then I try and share things that other people might be interested in. I think that’s a part of literary citizenship. I think speaking up and advocating for different marginalized people or groups or situations where you feel like there are things that are wrong or shouldn’t be done a certain way or something that’s offensive, that happens all the time, in every institution that I’m involved in.
The amount of misogyny, unprofessionalism, racism that occurs in any world, but especially the literary world is truly astounding. I’ll regularly do that work and just say, “Hey, I don’t think that’s acceptable. I think what you said is misogynist,” or something like that. I’m happy to point that out to people if I need to because I think sometimes people don’t see those things, and then at least we can have a conversation around those things. I think a lot of that work is done on a daily basis, and I think it just accumulates over time that you feel like that’s pretty much how I live my life.
Jasper: Thank you so much for giving us this definition of literary citizenship and these great examples from your own life. I thought you brought up something really interesting, which was a wish that more people had embodied these values when you were first starting your career as a poet. I know that the first book that you actually published was Asian American Poetry: The Next Generation, which was actually an anthology of other people’s poems primarily. How did you choose to do this active service to other poets at the outset of your career, and how would you have appreciated more support than maybe you would’ve gotten if you were an emerging poet today?
Victoria: Yes, I think I have these grandiose ideas. Some of my friends call me entrepreneurial. I just call myself all over the place. One thing that I’m always thinking about is how to fill needs, make things better. For me, at that time, because I am as old as I am, it was very difficult to find poems by Asian American poets because things weren’t online and you’d have to go to the bookstore and buy the latest journal, and then you’d have to go look in it, and it was really hard.
There was so few of us that were writing at the time, and then being published at the time, and I wasn’t, I had just started writing, and really, just, it was purely personal. I wanted to read poems by Asian American poets in one place. I just went ahead and decided that I wanted to do this project. Yes, I did the best I could. I remember a very prominent poet, Asian American poet at the time, when asked to do an introduction was like, “Who the heck is this person?”
As if my anonymity pretty much was a reason why he didn’t want to be involved in the project. Then, times were a little different back then, and I think credibility and having published books, those are all things that still matter today but matter much less. Like, you and I could right now start a literary journal right here and no one would think twice about it. No one would think, “Oh, has Victoria published anything or has Jasper published anything, or who are these people?” I think times have really changed. Back then, I think things are more hierarchical, which is, I really hate hierarchy.
I did get a little bit of pushback, and I think even an Asian American critic was like, had criticized the anthology. Sometimes I think your own community can be the most critical of us, and so, that hasn’t changed, to be honest. I think that each community understands itself better than anyone else could. Outside communities are often more welcoming of things that one does, but the internal communities are very much so doing a lot more questioning and deconstructing.
It’s not a bad thing. It’s only because we understand all of the little nuances of things a little bit better, but it taught me a lot of important lessons about community and how this was a group of people, writers that could be very ungenerous and catty and competitive and all the things that I didn’t want to be – and wasn’t inherently. I’m naturally a connector. I think I try and be generous, and I try and give people the benefit of the doubt, I’m positive. I try and do all of those things based on those early experiences, so they absolutely shaped me, and just confirmed the kind of person that I wanted to be in this world.
Jasper: I think this maybe brings us towards another thing that I wanted to talk about, which is the potential downsides of working as a literary citizen, both that sometimes people could say, “Oh, that’s energy that you could be putting into finishing your manuscript right now.” Also that, I think our society has a tendency to take advantage of people, and especially women, and especially women of color, to use their labor– Use your labor to help prop up institutions that then maybe are publishing lots of white men or are promoting– I don’t know, can be running against those interests a little bit. What are some of the potential perils that you see of being a good literary citizen, and what are like ways around them?
Victoria: There are quite a few perils, but I think there are perils to everything. I definitely think that time is a huge peril. There are only so many hours in the day, and I use and squeeze every last second out of my day every single day. I also think if I don’t do X, Y, or Z, then who will? I just think that there are some people like myself that just naturally lean into supporting communities and building communities, and enabling communities to flourish.
For people like us, I think, again, I think that literary citizenship community work is my poetics. It’s like, I don’t know if my body of work or the work that I do outside of my own writing is more important. But I definitely know that they can’t live without each other. In some ways, the work I do outside of my own writing fuels my writing and vice versa, I hope. It’s kind of like water or air to me. I feel like I would probably die if I didn’t do anything for other people because I had such a desire to be supported when I was younger and didn’t receive that support.
To this day, I still hear all sorts of stories. Like certain people just get more support, and it’s pretty rare for someone like me, who looks like me to get the support in terms of mentorship. I also do it because I can. I don’t feel like people have to do anything, but for me, I feel like I do have a lot of energy, but I will say this past year with the widespread attention that Obit has received, and the pull on my time, this year has been truly a breaking point. That it was just like one last thing that I couldn’t– Like, I really did break me and continues to break me.
Jasper: I’m sorry to hear that.
Victoria: It’s okay.
Jasper: We need you, Victoria.
Victoria: It’s really funny because my friends will be like, “You know, Victoria, people would die to have X, Y or Z.” I’m very aware that – not to complain about it because I think everything that’s happened is such a privilege. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing, it doesn’t happen to everyone, but I will say that my schedule didn’t have that space in the schedule. So, all the things that people ask me for now, pretty much, they break me on a daily basis. I spend a lot of time responding to email way past 5:00 PM. Let’s put it that way.
Jasper: How do you take care of yourself and make sure that this work of fostering community and giving back is sustainable for you?
Victoria: I haven’t figured that out yet. I’m in the midst of figuring that out right now. I’m actually trying to do that right now because it’s not sustainable.
Jasper: Thank you. That’s a very honest answer too. I don’t have the silver bullet.
Victoria: I don’t.
Jasper: I feel like we could hear that more often sometimes. Well, I wanted to turn and talk about the MFA program that you’re the chair of, which I think consumes a great deal of your efforts as a nurturing literary community and being a literary citizen. Why did you choose to take on this tough and not always super rewarding role of being the chair of a creative writing program?
Victoria: I think that, well, I always joke, it’s like I didn’t choose it, that sort of, there was no one else to do it. But I do think it’s a natural tendency of mine to think very high level and strategically. I think I just have that kind of personality. I often have gotten tagged to do these kinds of jobs unwillingly, but once I get my hands on something, oh, I’m definitely going to work really hard to make sure it’s operating in a way that it should. I demand a level of excellence in anything that I’m responsible for. Otherwise, I won’t put my name on it. I have worked really hard with a great team of people to make important changes to the program over the last three or four years.
Jasper: I remember when I was at the program, one of the small changes that you did was you said, “Hey, we haven’t been actually teaching poetics here in many years, so I’m going to teach a course on scanning verse and trying to find the meter in writing.” I know that a lot of your initiatives and reforms have been less specifically at the writing aspect and more at the citizen aspect. I know that you started the MFA newsletter, which I read religiously, which is called the MFA Citizen.
You also started the new MFA interview podcast, which is the LitSit podcast, and you did a handful of interviews for it right when you were launching it. Now it’s like more student interviews. I know I just listed two of these ways that you’re promoting literary citizenship. What are the specific ways that you use the program and that you’ve designed the program to promote the students into becoming good literary citizens?
Victoria: Sure. One of the biggest changes that we made early on was that this is a very diverse MFA program, and it was diverse when I first got here, and 40% of our students were BIPOC students. No one knew this at the time, of course, but I started digging around and asking for some data, and now we’re up to 60%. But, our faculty didn’t mirror that, not even close, and neither did our guests’ list. Our special guests that come in during our residencies did mirror that a little bit more. Then, I had issues with that, so we’re just going to perform diversity and bring in people to come and give a reading and teach a seminar, and then they leave, and so, how much have we actually made changes in terms of our program? There are all those types of issues.
Those are some of the things that I worked really hard on, and it took a lot of work to accomplish that. Now I think our faculty is more diverse and our guests are more diverse. Then just trying to build a quality program, and that’s student-centered, and that just doesn’t say it’s student-centered but is student-centered. Just trying to think about what the students might want or what the students might need, and then designing a program that pretty much goes through that filter. I think before, it wasn’t quite as much. Now I think every decision we make is on behalf of the students. We started offering online electives that are six to eight weeks long in between the residencies to build community.
You can sit in a class with 12 other students and meet once a week for two hours and take a class on poetry craft, or it could be a class on short stories, but here now suddenly if you met 11 more people, you’ve made 11 possible new friends to share your manuscript with when you graduate. You’ve now met a different faculty member that you wouldn’t have otherwise, and you get to meet weekly to talk about something, learn something new, but also, pretty much have another opportunity to socialize. We’ve done all these things with Student-Centeredness in mind, and then we’ve worked really hard in pedagogy. Obviously, the workshop model has felt really outdated for a long time, and how people teach in terms of insisting on, an insistence on the silence model in the workshop has been– [crosstalk]
Jasper: Just to clarify for people who might not know creative writing pedagogy. The workshop model is where you– Everybody who’s in a class, usually like 6 to 10 students will turn in a story or a poem, and then everybody else will have already read it before class happens, and then will have a discussion about it. But the person whose piece is being workshopped historically has been expected to be totally silent. Even if perhaps the conversation that’s going on is totally missing the point or is in some ways disrespecting them.
Victoria: Exactly. There’s been talk about un-silencing the workshop model for a long time. Beth Minh Nguyen wrote an article about this many many years ago, but I think our teaching at Antioch has stayed pretty static. Bringing in people to train our faculty to keep them updated, and I say us updated actually, on the newest ways of teaching and ways in which students might be changing. It’s a daily basis. It’s how we take care of our students. It’s how we talk to them. It’s how we support them. Each one, one-on-one is really a part of I think the true meaning of being Student-Centered.
Jasper: Thank you for sharing all those details. I find them super interesting as a graduate of the program, but I think it’s also evidence of just how proactive your leadership is in saying, “No, we’re going to keep developing our existing teachers through the bringing in speakers around pedagogy, or we’re going to otherwise take steps to try and make this better.”
Victoria: Again, if I’m going to be associated with anything, I’m going to demand a certain level of excellence. I think a part of excellence is not that there’s this one goal. Excellence is fluid, and it’s anti-hierarchical. It could be many things, but excellence is I think a continuous listening for how we can improve and for striving for a better situation.
Jasper: I’d like to turn away a little bit from the citizenship part, which I think, it’s important that we have the literary part in there with the citizenship. You’ve been mentioning that you published this book Obit that was just a massive hit. I just wanted to list off some of the awards that it won. It won The PEN/Voelcker Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. It was also a Time Magazine book of the year, New York Times 100 notable book selection, and one of NPR’s best books of 2020. It was in the running for two of the highest honors in American letters the long list for the national book award.
It was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. I was curious, you’ve talked around this a little bit, but I wanted to ask you outright, what was it like after almost two decades as a publishing writer to abruptly find yourself prominent in this much bigger stage, and way beyond the usual circles of poetry readers?
Victoria: Yes. I haven’t really had time to reflect on that that much but, the thing about being an artist for me at least is that I have to use the painter, Agnes Martin’s words, “I’ve turned my back to the world.” I’ve always been really focused on just the writing. The writing is what makes me have so much joy. It’s really my first love, it’s the act of writing. Also being an Asian-American woman at the age that I am, it’s not like there were any opportunities for me in the literary world anyway. It was easy to turn my back to the world. The world wasn’t really aware of me, or people that looked me, and if they were, it was like, “Oh, let’s pick this one person and anoint them the face of Asian-American poetry.”
There’s a lot of tokenism, and there still is, but much less than there used to be. I guess I just really was accustomed to being invisible and anonymous. What happened last year, I have to admit that I knew that the poems were going to attract a certain amount of attention because they had been being published in literary journals for a while, and I had already received a lot of emails and various feedback from people reading it.
I knew that the book was going to do well, but I didn’t realize that it was going to be so widespread. It was probably the book that was on every single list, which was really exhausting because, then everyone’s expectations are really high, and it wore me down after a while. It was still super exciting. Every time a list came out and my publicist emailed me, I’m like, “Oh my God, that’s so cool.” I just took it one day at a time.
Jasper: It’s interesting hearing you talk about this, ’cause it seems you talk about how books like by people like you, Asian American or Chinese American women have not often been even on the longlists for these sorts of prizes. When they have, there’s often this expectation that they stand in for that whole ethnic group. One thing that is notable about Obit is that it really is not trying to be a work of Asian-American literature explicitly. It is because you yourself are Asian-American. Another thing that’s interesting hearing you talk about it is that you talk almost as if there are all of these expectations riding on you.
Your friends’ expectations, and throughout your poetry, there’s often this character of Victoria Chang. She dies several times in these obituary-styled poems that’s like, “Victoria Chang died August 22nd, 2012,” or whatever, I made up that date. You also published a collection of poems called Barbie Chang, which was about a character like you. I wonder if there is some distance that you feel between you and the poetic persona of Victoria Chang that runs through your poems.
Victoria: Yes. Absolutely. I think, for me, writing poetry is another self. Also, I separate myself. When books come out, I don’t really think of myself as the poem or the book. I’m really just having a really fun time playing around with language and seeing if I could use language to describe something or some emotion or something else. I am oftentimes not super attached to my own writing anyway. I’m very happy for the book to find its audience, but I’m really unhappy about my attachment to that book. Meaning, I am not that book. I am not anything that anyone needs to talk to or or see or even know the book. I just want the book to find readers, and that’s it, but that’s not at all how this works, this whole system works.
When your book does well, everyone wants you, the person who supposedly wrote that book. To me, it’s like, “I don’t want to go out in the public,” but you have to because that’s your job. Also, you think, “Wow, I’m really lucky. I should be so happy to have all these cool opportunities to teach at Radloff, Teach at NAPA. Those were really great opportunities. Very few people actually ever in their lifetime might get those opportunities. It becomes very difficult to say no. Then when you do them again, if I’m associated with anything again, the level of excellence and demands that I put on myself are very high.
You end up working yourself really hard, and you think, “Oh, well this could be the last chance that I have to do this or this might never come again,” or, “I could die tomorrow,” kind of thing. You just end up doing everything. I definitely think that the book has its own life, but then, me got towed around. Like I was dragged around in the back of a vehicle in a cage for a year and a half and continue to be. I have great opportunities that continue to come to me on a daily basis. I didn’t have these opportunities just a year and a half ago, and so, it’s super cool, and I would be a fool to basically say that they weren’t amazing opportunities. I think that those are opportunities for the person though, not the book. I definitely think of those things as being separate, and I’ve been trying to find and carve out time to work on some new stuff that I’m really excited about. That’s been really fun too.
Jasper: I want to carve out a little bit of space here as we get towards the end of our interview to talk about some of the other books that you have published or about to publish alongside Obit, but that have received, relatively, a lot less attention. You put out this children’s book called Love, Love which is love with a comma between. You put that out in June of last year, and then on October 12th, you’re releasing this hybrid creative nonfiction memoir called Dear Memory: Letters on Writing, Silence, and Grief. I saw a connection there in the MFA program, you invite students often to do like a genre jump. If they’re studying fiction, they can spend one term studying children’s book writing, or writing for young people, or vice versa. What has it been like for you to jump between genres?
Victoria: I love writing and other genres, and I always say to our prospective students and also to our students and everyone that, I think genres are very human-made. I think of myself as someone who likes to make things out of language, and whatever vessel those that language happens to find itself in is fine with me. Sometimes the themes or the stories are finding their ways into different vessels. Something I may have tried and poetry may not have worked in poetry that well, so I’ll try it again in a middle-grade novel, “Oh, then that works better.”
I may write it again in creative non-fiction, there are threads that connect these things across each other, there’re themes that overlap and get repeated. I think that’s just a part of being human. I think books are an object that have a defined physical space that it takes up, but our brains and our imaginations, and our experiences are not like that at all. They’re very fluid and they’re constantly unspooling, is a word I used yesterday when I was talking to someone, and there’s a lot of spillages. I think that’s really wonderful, like why shouldn’t we be able to do whatever we want? I’m very interested in trying new things in creativity, and I think part of that is, it manifests itself in me writing in different genres.
Jasper: Thank you for sharing that. As we wrap up, I want to ask you the question that we always use to end the show, but we usually tailor it to the specific person who we’re talking to. Is there something, some lesson or practice or just way of approaching the world that comes out of the idea of literary citizenship that our listeners or other people, be they writers or people who don’t identify as writers, that they could take into their lives and their days that you would recommend?
Victoria: Sure. I think for writers, writing can be so lonely, and I feel like, even when you’re just talking to someone, that I think there’s so many things that happen in your brain, and I feel like a way to think about literary citizenship is just a way to expand your own ideas about whatever it is that you’re working on for yourself. The whole two brains are better than one brain kind of thing is truly just what literary citizenship is. If you’re struggling on your poem or your short story or your novel, go talk to someone. Go talk to someone about something that you want to do together to make the literary world a better place.
Then maybe talk a little bit about what you’re working on, and suddenly, you’re in this conversation with another person about this thing that you’ve been grappling with, and they might have some ideas for you, and it all comes together in that way. Then you go back and you’re reinvigorated and inspired, and then maybe have some ideas from this other person who’s also possibly a writer or someone in the community that could help your own writing, and I think it’s all tied together.
You don’t have to compartmentalize literary citizenship from your own creative practice, and I think sometimes we think about that of, “Oh, this is separate, this is different, is taking away from my own creative practice,” when in reality, I can’t think of one instance where I’ve worked on something else for the community that it hasn’t come back to me in some way, even spiritually. I think that eliminating those lines in the same way we eliminate those lines of genre is a good way to think about one’s literary citizenship in the world.
Jasper: Thank you so much for that, Victoria, and thanks for joining us today.
Victoria: Thank you. It was a pleasure.
Jasper: Victoria’s books that we discussed Obit, Love, Love and Asian American Poetry: The Next Generation are available in bookstores everywhere, and her book, Dear Memory, will be available October 12th. We’ll link in our show notes to where you can order or pre-order these books online. We’ll also link there information about the MFA in creative writing at Antioch Los Angeles.
We post these show notes on our website, theseedfield.org where you’ll also find full episode transcripts, prior episodes and more. The Seed Field podcast is produced by Antioch university. Our editor is Lauren Instenes, a special thanks to Karen Hamilton and Melinda Garland.
Thank you for spending your time with us today. That’s it for this episode, we hope to see you next time, and don’t forget to plant a seed, sow a cause, and win a victory for humanity. From Antioch university, this has been the Seed Field podcast.