Chapbook Review: Chinatown Sonnets by Dorothy Chan

Chosen by Douglas Kearney as the winner of New Delta Review’s 6th annual chapbook contest, Dorothy Chan’s Chinatown Sonnets takes us on a whirlwind tour of Chinatowns from Philadelphia to Manhattan to Roman Polanski’s 1974 film Chinatown. On selecting Chan’s collection, Kearney claims his “senses blissed on a blitz of color and clamor, flavor and texture, all that pungent love…”

And it’s true: Chan’s sonnets invoke the distinct sights, sounds, smells, and unforgettable flavors of Chinatown. We are dazzled with the many renditions and manifestations that we encounter as we are effortlessly transported from one major city to another, to Chinatowns real, romanticized, and remembered. But the romanticizing depicted here belongs to that of the mainstream media and their reductive depictions of this ethnic enclave, which Chan seeks to subvert. In the very first line of the opening poem, a line that also reappears later in the collection, Chan writes “This isn’t Chinatown from the movies,” setting up the tone for the rest of the chapbook.

Reading further into the collection, we find that Hollywood’s whitewashed caricature is splintered, turned loose, turned on its head so that we get a more authentic and gritty glimpse of the Chinatowns of the speaker’s reality, which is closer to the truth than Hollywood film.

From there, we enter into Chinatowns neon-lit by Chan’s own experiences: it is a world of haggling at the market, paying ancestral respect with a stack of Florida’s Best oranges, picking out fake Tiffany or fake Louis. And, always, there is food: shrimp crackers, bubble tea, frog legs, fish heads and curried fish balls, “American” egg waffles, chicken feet, and lychee gelatin alongside coke-floats, mashed potatoes, TV dinners, Campbell’s soup, and the speaker’s first burger (how she “opened America on a bun”).

The wide-ranging mix of food in Chinatown Sonnets that the speaker views or consumes shows us how cultures can collide—how one culture’s cuisine can be influenced, appropriated, or adopted by another and how the desire for “authentic” food comes down to one’s own experiences.

And Chan describes food miraculously well: watching the dangling ducks from the windows: / the pig-heads hanging and coffee-brown bags / sucking duck fat the way club girls chug drinks.

In doing so, she offers us a tender glimpse of family through all of the neon and glut and further invites us into the complex, layered world of Chinatowns where food is used to honor customs, to look at, to admire and desire, consume and commune: I can’t even hear my grandfather speak. / He hands me a crab claw cut-open, / showing love. In the same poem, Chan later writes: Grandfather points to the spring rolls, tells / me to eat more. I know I’m his American potato.

This collection offers us many colorful details dished out by an observer with a powerful eye, unapologetic voice, and a smart attention to musicality. The form and prosody propel the reader forward, keeping them furiously enthralled. Chan’s collection succeeds, not despite the form her poems arrive in, but because of the pleasure that she derives from making the sonnet form her own—Chan has no fear of breaking and tweaking and, overall, embracing the sonnet’s necessary power to gut unwanted excess.

This is a fast-paced collection brimming with textures and flavors that will envelop you, draw you in like your grandmother extending a plate of warm food that you can’t turn away from. I myself finished the chapbook in one sitting during my first go-around. The next day, I came back for more, my eyes ready to devour, fearing I’d missed something during my initial read.

Chan ends the collection with this stunner of a line: “This is my Chinatown, technicolor and gone” and we can’t help but feel sad with her.

Chinatown Sonnets is published by New Delta Review.

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Dorothy Chan is the author of Chinatown Sonnets, which was selected by Douglas Kearney as the winner of New Delta Review’s 6th Annual Chapbook Contest. She was a 2014 finalist for the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship and a 2017 finalist for the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Prize for Poetry from Pleiades Press. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Blackbird, Plume, The Journal, Spillway, Little Patuxent Review, The McNeese Review, and Salt Hall Journal. She is the Assistant Editor of The Southeast Review. Visit her website at dorothypoetry.com.

Reviewed by Susan Nguyen, Poetry Editor, Hayden’s Ferry Review

Susan Nguyen hails from Virginia but currently lives in the desert where she is at work on her MFA in poetry at Arizona State University.

Dustin Pearson Talks Telepathologies With Poet Cortney Lamar Charleston

Dustin: After reckoning with the bulky physicality of your collection, a quick thumb through of its pages, and a careful look through of its table of contents, I knew reading the whole book would take some serious mental and emotional endurance (I don’t know how I just waltzed right past the cover image, but perhaps that’s instructive, too). I was happy to take some comfort from the instruction of “Blackness as a Compound of If Statements” on page five. Oftentimes I get anxiety over the publication of intimate and candid meditations on black life. I wonder about the audience for such publications at different moments and the spiraling consequences of certain moments falling on unintended audiences (I’m thinking of Chappelle’s show, movies like Life, Friday, Bamboozled, and other publications popular culture grabbed a hold of and used against that publication’s intended purpose and audience). Your poem seems to offer some relief. It privileges its black audience at the same time it offers clear instruction for audiences that fall outside of the spectrum of blackness. Can you relate to or comment on the anxiety I mention and perhaps talk about how you see the poem working toward that end and others?

Cortney Lamar Charleston: You’ve definitely touched on a continuous source of concern for me as it pertains to producing work that in any way deals with blackness (which is, well, most of my work!). As black creatives, we know the (white) gaze is upon us at all times, and we also know the gaze often has harmful intentions; it would certainly love to turn my works (our works) into weapons that can be used against me (us), so to speak. Because of that, I’m always working in a context in which I’m looking to explain away or subvert the gaze. I believe the poem you’ve called out here―“Blackness as a Compound of If Statements”―troubles the gaze’s ability to weaponize, as it clearly draws lines along the basis of experience by using language that is instructional and leading. If you are someone who hasn’t lived through any of the experiences discussed in the poem, I’ve tried to position things in such a way that you can’t look anything other than foolish for trying to read past the words, make assumptions, or attempt logical gymnastics to turn them against the speaker or the community of people they are concerned with. The meanings of every word are only knowable, I think, through blood and bone, and while they can be appreciated by anyone, I believe it’s the living of the words that make this poem understandable. In fact, if you’ve stayed true to the instructions, then most of the poem should consist of silences for a reader where normally the gaze would assert its presence. Maybe that’s why, as you describe it, the poem seems to be offering relief. It’s a clear moment where you’re not being talked over as a black person, where a lie isn’t being told on you while in a moment of vulnerability.

 

Dustin: A lot of the poems in your collection exhibit a journalistic quality, except they make poetic what the media might render coldly, sensationalize, or otherwise exploit. The poems often break from that form to feature your poetic speaker, who empathizes and otherwise muses on himself and his actions during, after, and in relation to such happenings. Can you talk about your poetic speaker and these moments of empathy? Do you feel like the poems themselves are an interruption of the treatment of black death and injustice in the media? Regardless, can you talk about your process or perhaps why it was important to you to render these events in poetry?

Cortney Lamar Charleston: I find it interesting that you’ve labeled the poems “an interruption of the treatment of black death” in the media. It’s a way, honestly, I haven’t thought to explain them before, but I do think the statement rings true. Essentially, these poems have tried to make people realize that black death is, in fact, the REAL death of black PEOPLE―an erasure of human beings with real lives, with real hopes, with real dreams, and, yes, sometimes with real troubles; I was simply tired of having the essential human element of our national discourse on racialized violence continuously removed from the equation, thereby making sure that black men, women and children died twice or even three times over beyond their physical demise. What I wrote can be described as poetry, I think, only because I had a modicum of success in doing so, with empathy, sometimes even sympathy, being the bridge that allowed me to cross over the murky waters to tell how things are as I see them, and, likewise, what seeing them does to me as a person who could at any moment be reduced, instead, to just another thing. I mean, I’ve been consuming black death, the packaged product, for as long as I’ve been alive and nothing has made me feel more worthless or helpless or hopeless than its mass-marketing, which I suppose is the true reason why these poems exist, as a way of affirming my humanity, quite simply. I believe they take a journalistic view because my eyes have been trained since birth in the art of cool, “objective” observation; ultimately, it allows me an access point because I likewise know where the eyes of others are going to be trained to look, allowing me the opportunity and giving me the responsibility to scramble the traditional signals upon which we perceive, learn and normalize violence perpetrated against (or by, or both by and against) black people. That’s the interruption.

 

Dustin: As a follow up, in “Meditation on the Casual Use of Hands,” a poem written for Eric Garner, your speaker’s life takes center stage and the circumstances of Eric Garner’s death become peripheral. I love the poem because it illustrates how like incidents build tension in the black psyche and create a powerful subtext for how we think about and interact with whiteness and the white people we know and like and love, and how those relationships might ultimately change: “When I get off the train in Jersey, I can hear my girlfriend’s sister’s white boyfriend playing violin on the train platform. Usually, I just think of him as my girlfriend’s sister’s boyfriend, or as himself, but there’s a thin wire in me that’s been tripped, and not in the name of classical music.” I think what these incidents and this moment in the poem illuminate is how automatic it can be for black people to repress, and (arguably) against their better judgment, in order to like and love what so often ends up hurting them (systemically speaking) in massive and permanent ways. I know these injustices provoke a violent ambivalence inside me when I have to interact with whiteness, white people and the emotional investment I find has formulated in at least the latter entity, but I haven’t found a way to have that conversation outside of my head yet, or at least not inside the academy with the white people it’s appropriate to have that conversation with. Can you speak to this phenomenon, or at least your take on the moment I’ve cited from the poem?

Cortney Lamar Charleston: I believe the moment you’ve called to from the poem really gets to the heart of, perhaps, the greatest everyday struggle many face in a racist society: the fact that we must associate daily, by social design, with our oppressors. And not simply associate, but furthermore know them intimately as friends, and family, and lovers, and coworkers, and on and on and on. In my most valuable and important relationships with white people, I feel an inherent pressure to try, through means that sometimes border on illogical, to absolve them and remove them from the construct of whiteness for the sake of my ability to love and care for them. I think this is a parallel motion to what may happen in their own minds, as they disassociate me from the specter of blackness, its perceived inferiority or criminality, but the tolls we each pay to do so are different in nature and disproportionate in magnitude due to the fact that they are enveloped in racial privilege/supremacy while I am not. In short, there is no way to square that relationship without admitting, in some capacity, I may be committing an act of violence against myself. I am trusting that my white companion(s) will not harm me, intentionally or unintentionally, when they will have every opportunity to, and, in fact, may be programmed to simply via their upbringing in our racially and ethnically contentious society. And in those moments when the walls appear to be closing in, when we’re forced to confront the reality of all the imagined violence we could experience, it builds tension further into our relationships with white people if they don’t greet and address us with a genuine care and concern. As I’ve seen in my own life, more frequently the reaction has been for white acquaintances, sometimes friends, to avoid pointing to the knife’s shadow, but it’s only made me more leery and nervous of opening myself up to them. That’s not an act of bigotry on my part; that’s an act of self-defense and self-preservation. That’s also a central concern of the poem in question: the process by which I and many other black people respond to black death by becoming apathetic or agnostic toward building and maintaining relationships with white people. Now, that’s not necessarily a realistic or practical or even desired course of action on our part, but the rationality that underscores it presents itself over and over again over the course of our lives.

 

Dustin: I love the poems in your collection whose titles take the form of questions. The poems present a series of answers that remind me of collages—ones that amass conditions of black life in a way that’s familiar, powerful, and unifying. Do you think of these poems as collages? Was it your intention to structure the poems that way?

Cortney Lamar Charleston: In many respects, yes, I did conceive of the poems as a type of collage whereby all of the various answers to the title question created the (fractured) image of a certain lived experience. These poems, in fact, perhaps best encapsulate my reason for penning this entire collection in the first place; with all the violence surrounding black people, and with its ubiquitous promotion across all forms of media, I was searching for answers as to why events were playing out in precisely this way and, what, if anything, could be done to stop it. By asking the question, I’m looking for a personal action that can be taken or a decision that can be made to do exactly this, prevent my unjust victimization, but am confronted at every turn by the fact my agency does not extend as far as I may hope or even think (because racism), and thus, my strategizing is largely a pointless exercise. Hence the poems’ questions are met with a myriad of answers that are not definitive, but are instead suggestive. The truth is there are no right answers because the presentation of respectability cannot guarantee genuine respect of one’s humanity by people and institutions of power. There are so many illogics stood against that from happening that what we’re left with is the confusion between the answers, the place we’re cursed to live in that the poems archive.

 

Dustin: I’ve seen several people taking pictures with your collection as a show of support—some smiling, some reading, some in other poses or simply holding the book, but given the cover art, my imagination has me thinking of the implication of taking such a picture or rather what the implication of picturing or seeing someone hold your book in their hands might be. Is this something you’ve thought about, especially in relation to your book’s title or the treatment of black people and blackness in the media?

Cortney Lamar Charleston: I have to say, you, sir, are the smartest for raising this question. This is definitely something I’d thought about ahead of time due to the nature of the cover painting, and the sharing of it across social media has become a part of the book’s experience, at least how I conceive it as a complete work. It’s all so meta! Even when we have the best of intentions behind our actions, it demonstrates the ease with which we (anybody) can commoditize and commercialize black death, black suffering. Most of us wish only to broadcast these images as a way of saying, here, look at this extremely real pain and suffering we must eradicate, but in doing so, we’re still taking time to offer up reproductions of human beings being violated or even killed. In the same way, people have shared the book’s cover (either the digital mock-up or a photo of the physical copy) as a way of voicing support for me personally as the author or the content inside its pages, or both, and still, there’s the unconscious commercialization of black suffering, though in this case, the painting is an imagining rather than an actual artifact. It serves to remind me, frequently though tangentially, of the difference between the performance of advocacy and allyship versus the taking of actions that define being an advocate or an ally. I think it begs us to take a closer look at that relationship, to do the hard work of interrogating our actions, though I wonder how many folks who have seen the book or held it in their hands have had that thought rise to the surface. For those whose minds that thought has crossed, I feel they’re engaging with the material along a slightly different dimension, and if even a few do in that way, particularly if they are not a black person, then it’s a reassuring thought for me.

 

Dustin: What’s your current relationship to Telepathologies? What’s the relationship of your current writing to Telepathologies?

Cortney Lamar Charleston: Telepathologies and I, right now, have a complicated relationship. I appreciate it. I’m proud of it, but I already find myself, in some ways, wanting to distance myself from it because of what I subjected myself to in order to write it. Even though I didn’t center myself as the speaker within every poem, I still had to sit among the dead every day to craft the poems I did, and that’s an intense and exhausting process, whether we’re talking mind, body or soul. Now that it’s finished, and available to be read, I find that, to make it more palatable for myself, to make it easier to read when I do voice selections from it for an audience, I try to think about the poems more on an intellectual wavelength than an emotional one. I’ve also invested a certain musicality into a lot of the words, and that music helps soothe me even as I, admittedly, belt out very blue notes. I suppose I also have trouble recognizing the book as beautiful, which is an interesting dilemma as well, though I can’t explain why that is. With all that said, it has undoubtedly altered my practice and the work that I’m writing and editing now. By it appearing as my first published collection (full-length or otherwise), it is creating the initial context through which my future work(s) will be received regarding comparisons of style, subject, political orientation, etc. To begin with a treatise of sorts hasn’t been limiting though. If anything, I realize that there’s so much room for further expansion and exploration, and currently I’m trying to do so by touching more on my own personal narrative. At this time, I feel like the same call to action that lead to Telepathologies will likely anchor my work for as long as I’m writing. I’ll simply be approaching it from different angles, with different tactics, hoping to show how frustratingly complex our social constructs are, and how much they complicate our lives and breed room for calamity. Said differently, I haven’t said everything that needs to be said nor have I learned everything that needs to be learned.

 

Dustin: Feel free to ask me any question as a reader of your collection.

Cortney Lamar Charleston: How did you feel about the juxtaposition of poems where the perpetrators of violence are (presumed to be) black people in a collection that speaks very overtly to violence being perpetrated against black people? What did you think about that relationship?

Dustin: I think my biggest anxiety about that juxtaposition stems from those who I know would use it or be tempted to use it as a justification for the acts of violence and other injustices black people sustain, endure, or perish behind. Me personally, I recognize that those poems relay and exhibit the multifaceted nature of the oppression black people face—the complexity and deep permeation of systemic influence over our lives and how that influence often manifests or is expressed within our communities. I remember studying Etheridge Knight in a literature course. I don’t remember the name of the poem, but it featured several incarcerated black people having a discussion about how best to escape their imprisonment. A peer of mine raised his hand and commented that he felt the poem was really representative because it showed how black people suffer because they argue with and against each other instead of uniting. I remember being at a social gathering a year or more later discussing the incident when an outsider to the original conversation commented that she felt what my peer from the literature course had said was true, and I’m not trying to deny that sometimes that is or might feel true, but it’s a reductive and racist assessment because it ignores a whole history and collective trauma and set of socio-economic factors and casually levies a critique at an entire race of people as though the same phenomenon doesn’t occur within all races. We are an oppressed people, but the unjustified and ignorant ease and vigor with which outsiders say these things illustrates how oppression encourages more oppression and perhaps empowers others to further oppress. I don’t think the poems in your collection do that by any means, and at my most chaotic, I don’t think the poems in your collection could empower someone to oppress without completely manipulating or ignoring the implications of your collection as a whole, even if that’s something we both recognize that happens to our creative works. We often talk about the audience for poetry and the assumptions we can make about those who readily engage with poetry. The incidents I mention happened within the academy, by people who consider themselves active, engaged and open-minded readers, and people who aspire to put their own creative works into the world. This kind of thing is not even rare. I don’t really know what I’m getting at here besides to say I think we can afford to take the study and practice of poetry more seriously. We should treat it as having as much stakes as the misguided understanding of the peer I described—the stakes of his misguided understanding being allowed to spread. It’s not enough to read and engage these works in the academy, we need diverse and knowledgeable instructors to help ensure these works are considered for the full complexity they embody rather than allow them to be co-opted and harmfully presented as a fraction of themselves.

Cortney Lamar Charleston: I know exactly what you're saying. In writing the poems, I needed to make sure that they were collected with everything else so my truest intentions could not be obscured or misappropriated without the culprit being looked at skeptically. But it does speak to that larger challenge. Where we see nuance, others will see reinforcement of dominant and violent narratives. We really do need more serious consideration and instruction of poetry that is more intricately tied to the insights that come from historical, sociological, economic, political-scientific disciplines.

Telepathologies is available now from Saturnalia Books

Telepathologies is available now from Saturnalia Books

Susan Nguyen interviews Ethos Books about Singapore's Literary Scene

Our poetry editor Susan Nguyen (right photo, top-right) with some members of Ethos Books.

Last summer, our poetry editor Susan Nguyen was on fellowship in Singapore where she co-taught a creative writing course at the National University of Singapore. While there, she had a chance to explore the beautiful Lion City that is home to a diverse literary scene, have lunch in a hawker center with the wonderful poet Cyril Wong alongside other HFR editors, purchase a wide array of books (and pet the cats!) at BooksActually, and interview the editorial staff of one of Singapore's independent book publishers, Ethos Books

Susan: Ethos Books was established in the late 90s. What was the Singaporean literary or publishing scene like at the time? Was Ethos created as a response to what was seen as a need for or a lack of something at the time?

Ethos: Back then, there was quite a number of publishing houses actively publishing books, like Times Publishing, Straits Times Press, NUS Press, and Flame of the Forest to name a few. The choice of publication was mainly novels (crime novels, from what I know but this needs fact-checking!) and short stories (a really famous series is True Singapore Ghost Stories). No one was publishing poetry though, and Mr. Fong Hoe Fang, when approached by Alvin Pang, Aaron Lee, and David Leo to consider their poetry collection for publication, he decided to start Ethos Books.

The focus of that era was directed at economic growth – technology, science, finance – and the necessity of language was to fulfill business needs. There wasn’t emphasis on language and the artistic growth of the society, and Singlit would have been one of the last things on people’s mind. Considering how the literary scene in Singapore is the biggest it has ever been today, and yet it’s still relatively unknown to the larger part of the population; how obscure it must have been back then! Starting a publishing house focused on poetry and literary fiction wasn’t likely to be a money-making venture at all – but that’s not what Ethos set out to be. Mr. Fong’s love for words and language, and to see it flourish in his own homeland, was the main drive behind it.

Susan: Singapore has a relatively new history as an independent city-state. It is home to three major ethnic groups and boasts four official languages: English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil. How do you see Singapore’s short history and multiculturalism affect its literature scene?

 

Ethos: To “unite” our multicultural society and expand our economic boundaries, numerous policies were introduced in the first fifty years alone which shaped people’s conception of language, race and religion. The implementation of English as our main tongue, while our mother tongue took on a secondary role (and Chinese dialects were to be completely replaced by Mandarin), has shaped and continues to shape the literary landscape: The volume of English publication outweighs publications in any of the other mother tongues. We are at a stage where it’s normal to be bad at your mother tongue, and there is little interest to pursue literary material without mastery of the language. Interestingly, in The Poetry of Singapore Vol. 1, edited by Edwin Thumboo, the number of poems across all 4 languages were almost the same – a difficult feat to achieve if you’re curating a Singapore anthology today.

Being made acutely aware of our differences and the need for inclusion, to the extent where we are awkward about maintaining diversity for the sake of diversity: from literary panel speakers to reading movement ambassadors, to prize award winners: do we really need a palette of colours at any event? There is so much more honor to be invited based on your personality and wits over your skin colour! But fifty years is an incredible amount of time to have condensed this much campaigns and policies, and perhaps what people need is just time to recover from it all, and think.

The word ‘multicultural’ gets a bad rep on most days in Singapore, but at times when writers do play upon the mix of languages and dialects in their works, it’s quite a magical feeling to know that such an entity is possible – That you could understand it, that the person next to you could understand it, and that perhaps, only Singaporeans will understand it.

Maybe we’re being too hard on ourselves. We are, after all, only fifty years into the making. A newborn still crawling on all fours, and a long way to go before we get to where the leagues of American and British publishers are right now. But if anything, this Singapore baby has big dreams.

Susan: Does the idea of “identity,” in whatever shape or form but especially as it relates to ethnicity, race, and/or nationality, come into play in much of the writing you’ve seen or even published? How might this conversation about identity differ from that of other countries’?

Ethos: Yes, it does, and in fact, it’s very much in all of the work we’ve published. We’re looking at identity in all forms here – the self, the nation, the self with the nation, and the self with almost anything. People struggle with a multitude of things from in their lives, from micro-personal level and all the way up to macro-global. At the core of the topic, people are looking to make sense of who they are and what they mean to their family, their society, their nation, and the world – what differs are the conditions. 

Susan: How exactly does a hopeful writer get into the literature scene here? Are there a lot of resources for those interested in fiction, poetry, play writing, and so on? Are these arts encouraged?

Ethos: There are definitely resources to get anyone started on their writing! There are writing residencies by various organisations throughout the year, and also organisations who would sponsor your residency elsewhere in the world. Our national libraries have quite a large collection on various genres, which makes it a good start for any specific area you are interested in.

I think the best way to get into the literature scene, and to really immerse yourself in it, is to hang out at literary events and make friends. Beyond knowing people in the community, it’s really one of the ways to get feedback on your own works and developing your writing through your experiences with other writers and their writings. People are walking encyclopedias of knowledge and experience.

Some literary events to look at are writing groups online (e.g. SingPoWriMo), manuscript bootcamps (by Singlit Station), recurring literary events (e.g. Speakeasy).

There has been an overwhelming increase in support for the Singlit over the last decade. The National Arts Council has been coming up with new initiatives for engage the written word in various ways. They are programmes outside of their own plans which they generously fund when appropriate. The Singapore Writers Festival is getting bigger each year, with more workshops and masterclasses. More schools are adopting local texts for the ‘O’ level and ‘A’ level curriculum over the years, and are interested to invite authors into the classrooms for creative writing workshops or assembly talks. It’s a drop in the ocean, but the ocean is made up of tiny drops of water! 

Susan: How do you think the literature and/or publishing scene will change in the coming years? Where do you think or hope Ethos will be in the near or far future?

Ethos: A change seems to be descending the publishing scene here in Singapore; many young writers are coming forth to present ideas and books, and a fresh wave of concepts are flowing freely from publishers and people involved in the book industry. There’s the quirky, guerilla style of bringing Singlit to the city through Singlit Station’s efforts, there’s grounds gained on the translation front with Select Centre’s initiatives, and a revival of the novel with Epigram Books’ Fiction Prize. There is much to look forward to in the coming years, I think we can expect to see more writers coming out with their works and these works will be even more carefully considered, edited, and talked about.

Our hopes for Ethos is to create books that will open doors for different readers, and for our books to drive change, even if it’s limited to the small group who has read them.

Susan: Finally, are there any last words of wisdom or advice that you’d like to offer to emerging writers?

Ethos: If you’re ever stuck, try out a collaborative project – whether with another writer, or using materials from people of various industries. A lot can be drawn upon from people outside of your usual circle of knowledge to inform your writing. One of our new releases, Dream Storeys, is a hybrid of journalism-fiction where Clara Chow draws upon her interviews with architects and writes stories around them. It was a beautiful melding of design philosophy, storytelling, and really, getting to know a little bit more about people in your society you would have otherwise never known.

For more about Singlit, you might also be interested in this past HFR interview with Singaporean poet Alvin Pang or in picking up Hayden's Ferry Review issue 57: Borderlands, which has a special feature devoted to the work of Singaporean authors.