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Behind the Masthead: Sue Hyon Bae

Our new International Editor, Sue Hyon Bae, discusses Mark Doty, Korean euphemisms, and the lack of seasons in the desert with intern Michael Cohen.

Michael Cohen: You’re the new International Editor at HFR—what does that title mean to you?

Sue Hyon Bae: Being constantly surprised, from the moment I accepted the position and every time I look at the queue and find a new amazing translation. I’d applied for poetry editor initially and was flattered but alarmed to be made international editor. It’s also a lot of responsibility; since we don’t have international readers, my fellow international editor Aria and I are solely in charge of choosing which translations to publish, without any third opinions. I feel really weird about having so much say-so over the final content of HFR, and underqualified for the job because usually I can’t read the original language, although of course that’s a ridiculous expectation. It kind of makes me want to learn French or something new.

 MC: What do you think makes international submissions stand out from others?

SHB: It’s a more diverse bunch, not only the authors of the original works but the translators themselves. The translators range from MFA candidates who happen to have taken an interest in a particular author, to scholars abroad who want to spread awareness of a fellow countryman outside their home. There’s a huge range in year, from contemporary to centuries old, and all types of genres. It’s impossible to confuse one submission for another.

MC: You’re originally from St. Louis (or at least had your undergrad there)—what is the biggest difference, for you, between there and here?

SHB: Well, I only lived in St. Louis during college. Of all the places I’ve lived, though, I’ve never experienced desert weather. The bougainvillea reminds me of Malaysia, but otherwise it’s all unfamiliar. Sometimes I send photos of the landscape around me to my mom, who sends back astonished IMs about how it’s still snowing in Korea. My grandparents keep telling me to keep warm because they can’t quite grasp the idea of a place without winter.

MC: Do you find yourself returning to any themes in your own work frequently? Any itches you have to keep scratching?

SHB: I haven’t noticed any, but maybe that’s something you have a hard time seeing in yourself. Maybe my peers in workshop are secretly muttering to themselves about how I keep writing the same poem. Some of my recent poems have been conversations between my mother and me. I have a suspicion that my thesis will have to be dedicated to her because she’s the only one who’ll get all the inside jokes.

MC: What’s the best thing you’ve read in the last, say, 6 months or so?

SHB: Somehow I’d managed not to read any Mark Doty until very recently. I read “Atlantis” five minutes before I had to start teaching and regretted that I wasn’t at home where I could sit back, read it a few more times, and get really emotional. There was a short story, “The Quiet Thing” by Che Yeun in The Kenyon Review that I loved because every line evoked Seoul, where I lived, for about nine years now. Currently I’m reading this nonfiction tome, wonderfully titled The Antichrist’s Lewd Hat, about murder pamphlets in early modern England. It’s good prose and of course the woodcuts of murders are fun, but I find the narrow topic weirdly comforting—Peter Lake got obsessed with something, and he responded by doing research and getting even more obsessed, and that’s perfectly acceptable, fascinating to those who don’t share the obsession, even useful in its findings. It tells me it’s okay to have esoteric interests.

MC: Who or what would you say inspires you? (not necessarily just in your work, but also in life)

SHB: I keep a giant document titled IDEA BIN full of small observations, thoughts, pleasing phrases. Recently, I was scrolling through this file, looking for inspiration for a poem due the next day, and I saw an old description of a ginkgo tree, followed by an unrelated list of Korean euphemisms for death. So I wrote a poem about a ginkgo tree reflecting on death. I think that’s pretty representative of how I work.

MC: You’re stranded on a deserted island—you can bring 3 nonessential items (food, water, basic clothing, shelter, etc. do not count) what do you bring?

SHB: I have an answer for a similar question, which asks what books you would bring to a deserted island, and which I’ve been mulling over for a few years. I’ve never considered the bigger question of any nonessential items. Probably I would still bring books. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky, and The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass. Not only because they are some of my favorite books, but because they’re all really long.

MC: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to go into the writing/editing/publishing field?

SHB: A student recently asked me this and I ended up rambling about how I used to get up at six in the morning so I could write in the library when there weren’t other people around making annoying noises. The basic idea is probably true, if not the details about what time to get up or where to go—put in the effort to actually sit down and write, write, revise, write. It’s advice I don’t follow too well myself. I think we shouldn’t take stereotypes about writers too seriously. You do you, etc.

Behind the Masthead: Dustin Pearson

Our new Managing Editor, Dustin Pearson, discusses adult-like things, sushi rice, and the most important thing he’s discovered since joining HFR (himself) with intern Michael Cohen.

Michael Cohen: You’re the new Managing Editor at HFR—what does that title mean to you?

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Dustin Pearson: Well, right now it means doing all the correspondence between our contributors. So the way that our process works is: the genre editors, they’ll go through the material—after it’s been passed up from the first, second, and third readers—and they’ll go through it, basically decide which pieces that they want, and then they’ll accept the piece initially. Then I’m responsible for all the formal processes, so the publication agreements, and all the kind of legal things that are involved with accepting pieces, [and] accepting contributors for the next issue. So it’s a lot of that. I’m pretty sure at some point it will involve budgeting, and all kinds of adult-like things I may or may not be ready to handle, but I will handle. And, you know, it’s basically just looking out for the magazine in a larger sense too, because I was able to negotiate a solicitation from one of our visiting writers, which we were really lucky to get. So I think in that way, it’s all about marketing, always making sure that at any point I get to advertise or tout the magazine, I do, and open up as many doors for Hayden’s Ferry as I can.

MC: You’re originally from South Carolina—what is the biggest difference, for you, between there and here?

DP: If I wanted to be boring, which I do at some points in time, I would say that it’s the humidity. I think today it’s like in the 90’s, and if we were in South Carolina, we’d be both wet and very very hot. I’d say 90’s in Arizona feels like what it would be like at 80 degrees with the sun shining and all the humidity in South Carolina. I’d say at some points in time when it comes to the humidity, I’m more comfortable in Arizona, but I definitely do miss the South Carolina weather.

MC: A follow up: What’s the best thing you’ve discovered since moving to Arizona?

DP: Oh, wow. The best thing I’ve discovered… who knows, man? Probably my apartment. My one bedroom, one bathroom apartment that I get to myself. I definitely did discover it; it was a weird, kind of crazy process getting here, because I had no idea—I didn’t visit Arizona before I came out to move here for the program. So, I had to negotiate all that basically over the phone and email. This is the first time I’ve ever lived alone, so in that way, I’m getting to know parts of myself I previously had neglected—there’s lots of singing to myself and talking to myself, and it’s all okay, because I’m the only audience for myself in my own apartment.

MC: Do you find yourself returning to any themes in your work frequently? Any itches you have to keep scratching?

DP: Yeah, definitely: Race. Trauma. Other forms of abuse. I feel like, at this point in time, I’m always looking to discover a certain kind of intimacy. I think that’s the craving that I have. Not physical intimacy, but human-to-human intimacy that doesn’t include any kind of physical interaction. So I think that’s the one thing that’s remained constant in my work, and the one thing that I think I’ll never stop writing about. I think there’s all this potential for human beings to have these great genuine interactions with each other, but society isn’t really built that way. It’s much more efficient to be casual and to leave all that other stuff at home. So in that way, if I’m going to continue with that metaphor, everything that people are leaving at home, that’s what I want to bring to the forefront in my work.

MC: You talked about living alone and having yourself as an audience. Do you find you’re discovering a lot of that intimacy with yourself in this new space that’s fueling any of your work?

DP: I think I get most inspired when I’m by myself in these kind of intimate settings, but when I had other people that I had to consider, I think I would definitely neglect, or try and postpone. This way, living alone, I do get to explore it deeper sooner than I would if I didn’t live alone.

MC: What’s the best thing you’ve read in the last six months or so? Or maybe the best three things—three to five.

DP: It’s so funny—I’m never able to do these “best of” questions. I feel like I have no pulse when it comes to the things that I’m reading. There will be things that I really like, but at any point in time when I finish reading something, I’m not immediately able to say “That’s definitely one of the best.” I look at other people and I’m thinking, when they start talking about “Yeah, this is the best book I’ve read this year,” and I’m like how do you know that? How do you make that decision? What does that decision look like?

I guess if I wanted to be superficial and just answer it like how you probably want me to in the first place, I’d say maybe Thomas Sayers Ellis’ Skin, Inc. That’s one. My home page, on my Internet browser, that’s probably number two, because the content changes and it’s always different and it’s invigorating, maybe because it changes so often. And number three: my students’ essays for freshman comp. That’s been some exhilarating work.

MC: Who or what would you say inspires you? (not necessarily just in your work, but also in life)

DP: I’d say probably the unknown. This hope that I have that there’s some great, unlocked potential that I’m working toward. It might not be that I ever get to it, but I think the aspiration of chasing the dream of unlocking that potential—that’s what motivates me the most.  I think about writing for my entire life and not knowing what I’ll be writing about 30 minutes from now or 70 years from now, and that’s really, really exciting. That’s the thing that really propels me when I don’t have anything else.

But who? There are some obvious answers, like my former teachers. I don’t think I would have been a writer if I hadn’t met my last teacher. But as far as somebody whose work I really model or channel when producing new work—I don’t have that person yet. I don’t think I would ever want to emulate somebody’s lifestyle that I admired. I would want to be close to that person, but I wouldn’t want to replicate that person in any way, because that would probably make them not so interesting to me anymore.

MC: You’re stranded on a deserted island—you can bring 3 nonessential items (basic food, water, clothing, shelter, etc. do not count) what do you bring?

DP: You know what? This is going to be so disappointing, because I’m going to go in that cliché route that’s usually like, “What book or what movie would you bring?” One of the writers that I really really admire is Patricia Highsmith, and she wrote The Talented Mr. Ripley, and that’s a whole series of books with similar characters and whatnot. That’s one of my favorite movies ever. I’d probably bring the book, because it wouldn’t be practical to bring the DVD, right? Unless I wanted to bring a DVD player… But, I think it’s so cool how it shows you how your work can transcend the person who’s writing it. If you read Patricia’s biography, you’ll find out she’s a reclusive kind of personality, and she was never comfortable with black people, and it seems like, from very outwardly, it would be silly for me to admire her work so much, but I really do. 

So that would be one thing. I think, sushi rice—that would be another thing. Just this jug of sushi rice that continually fills itself. And white sauce. The white sauce to go on top of that rice. That way, I could pick up some coconuts or some crabs from the island and have myself a good old time and have sushi. I imagine there will be seaweed where I’m going, so that’s it: sushi rice, Patricia Highsmith’s book The Talented Mr. Ripley, and white sauce. *laughs*

MC: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to go into the writing/editing/publishing field?

DP: My advice would be to write what you want, first. Definitely be smart, and educate yourself about it, but write what you want first, that’s the impulse that I think will be the most worthwhile and give you the greatest chance of succeeding at writing. Write what you want to write and write what you’re passionate about writing, because all that other stuff like getting published and all those practical, logistical things, all that material stuff, it’s not going to be rewarding unless you’re really putting something out there that you’re attached to and invested in.  

Behind the Masthead: Kevin Lichty

Our new special projects editor, Kevin Lichty, discusses top secret plans, old radios, and Toy Fox Terriers.

Shelby Heinrich: Special projects editor sounds like a very interesting and important title. What exactly does this title entail? 

Kevin Lichty: The special projects editor is job made and remade every year. Essentially, any idea that an editor has (as an individual or as a collective "editors") that falls outside of the traditional pages of HFR and everyone loves, it is the special project editors job to make that idea happen. 

SH: Are there any “special” projects for HFR in the works right now that you are particularly excited about? 

KL: I have two top secret projects I will be working on over the summer that will reach out to our community (both local and digital) and ask for active engagement and participation. I hope everyone will love them.

SH: How would you describe HFR to someone who knows nothing about it? 

KL: HFR is a literary magazine that is all about play, but serious play, the kind of play you engage in when you are trying to, say, break the unified field theory, or discover the immortal incandescent light bulb, or develop a new calculus for macroeconomics. That's the kind of serious play HFR's contributors engage in with their language and form and content. 

SH: What forms of writing do you personally like to create (fiction, poetry, lyrics, hieroglyphics etc.)? What other forms of creation do you enjoy?

KL: I am a storyteller, which usually means I work in prose, but not always (like 90 percent prose). I was a street musician in South Florida for awhile, which in itself is a form of constant (re)creation. When I was a kid, I used to tape a radio show with my younger brother. We had this old radio that somehow had a microphone built into the speakers and so we'd talk into this old radio and record songs by holding one speaker up to the other and use these old cassette tapes my dad had and gave them out to our friends. It was like an annotated mixed tape but with these horrible conversations and bad skits just sort of wedged in there.

SH: What is your spirit animal? 

KL: Right now, it is probably my Toy Fox Terrier, Saydee, because she plants herself on my shoulder when I'm watching TV or reading and watches vigilantly with her giant ears and her giant eyes and snaps at anyone who tries to take her off that perch.

Call For Submissions

“Borderlands”

Hayden’s Ferry Review, Issue 57

Borderlands are venues for encounter, exchange, and conflict. They encompass not only physical or legislative borders, but also abstract spaces—psychological, cultural, social, and natural. What happens in the limbic, the transitional, and the in between? What is gained and what is lost in the act of defining boundaries? What questions does the space raise of race, class, gender, citizenship, and identity? Hayden’s Ferry Review invites writers and artists to interpret the theme as they like. We’d prefer interpretations of a personal nature, rather than general, but mostly we just want strong, passionate pieces that excite and challenge.
Hayden’s Ferry Review will be accepting themed submissions until June 1st. To submit, please visit our Submittable page.