Poet Interview #46: Michael Chin

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? At what age did you start writing? Have you always written poetry? Who/what first inspired you to start writing? Who are your favorite poets?
I started writing from about the time I learned to read. My dirty little secret as a kid writer is that I actually didn’t enjoy reading for many years, though I eventually grew into that. I’m on the reserved side, and have always found I express myself better in writing than in talking with folks. I think the storytelling elements of writing drew me in first, and are still at the core of my writing interests, but the exploration of a single complex idea or image has given me some footing in poetry.
I dabbled in bad love poetry in high school, and experimented some more in college, but had kind of accepted that I was much more of a prose writer until I took a hybrid forms class in my MFA program at Oregon State, with the incomparable Jennifer Richter. Once I wrapped my head around the prose poem as a form in which to really explode an idea, a moment, or something that seems small.
Some of my favorite poets include Matthea Harvey, Dean Young, Gary Young, and Maggie Nelson.
How do you first start writing a poem? Does it come to you out of the blue, or do you have a set time where you meet with your Muse each day and let the words just … come? Has your idea of what poetry is changed since you began writing poetry?
Oftentimes, my poetry comes from some idea I’m mulling over. The heart of “Just One Punch” came to me years back thinking about a moment of interaction with an old friend in high school and thinking (as I do too much) about pro wrestling and its inner workings. I actually tried writing this as a short story first but synergizing the personal with the larger real world got muddy and unwieldy, and the poem turned out to be a better container for what I was trying to get at.
My concept of poetry is evolving almost constantly, just as I have my suspicions that the genre itself is expanding. I’m interested in continuing to find connections between myself as fiction writer and poet, and infusing narrative through much more finite moments.
I try to write something–roughly 500 words, or at least for a half hour or so each day. I find that that kind of continuous motion keeps me from getting rusty or “losing the trail” on what I’m working on.
Are you on Facebook or Twitter or any other social media? Does that fit into your writing life, and if so, how?
I am on Twitter (@miketchin) and try to get on there most days. I have a handful of folks I respect and trust who I like to check in on regularly for links to great writing or interesting ideas, and I find it’s a pretty simple way to engage or at least be aware of larger conversations in writing on the regular.
Do you have a writing group or community of writers you share your work with? Who are they? What are you reading right now?
I have had various groups I’ve worked with over the years, but am in an in-between space now after just finishing my MFA and negotiating a cross-country move. I’m fortunate to have a decent network of people whose writing and thoughts I trust, though, and intend to be proactive about organizing some manuscript swaps in the not-too-distant future. Generally, I think concentrated feedback from a trusted source or two is the way to go.
As I write this, I recently finished Julie Iromuanya’s Mr. and Mrs. Doctor and have been reading Heath McCoy’s fascinating history of the Calgary pro wrestling scene, Pain and Passion.
What words of encouragement can you offer other poets who are trying to get their work noticed?
I think the best thing that I’ve been doing and would recommend to other poets and writers more generally is to keep producing, keep revising, and keep sending out. We live in a pretty cool period in literary history in which the volume of online outlets for publication (and submission to publication) is pretty huge, so there are plenty of great venues to explore and find a great fit for your great work.

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Scott Thomas Outlar hosts the site 17Numa.wordpress.com where links to his published poetry, fiction, essays, interviews, reviews, and books can be found. He is a Best of the Net and three-time Pushcart Prize nominee. Scott's poetry books include: Songs of a Dissident (Transcendent Zero Press, 2015), Chaos Songs (Weasel Press, 2016), Happy Hour Hallelujah (CTU Publishing, 2016), and Poison in Paradise (Alien Buddha Press, 2017). Scott is a member of The Southern Collective Experience; he also serves as an editor for Walking Is Still Honest Press, The Blue Mountain Review, The Peregrine Muse, and Novelmasters.

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