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An Interview with Pui Ying Wong

Christina Yu





Praise for Pui Ying Wong's debut collection of poems, Yellow Plum Season!


        Yellow Plum Season by Pui Ying Wong is a gift, a gift that comes every 500,000 years as the ancient Hindu calendars say. The poems reverberate with a quiet beauty like these lines convey: "I want to disappear into a happy parade," "I want to play my old harmonica in the piazza," "late night ferries bobbing in the water/like lanterns held by angry men." This book is a gift you will keep for a very long time.

                    -Nick Carbo


         Pui Ying Wong's poems take us on journeys both intimate and universal, across several continents to find "what world is still possible," even though "there are no more tickets to where you want to go".... Yellow Plum Season is an honest and moving book of poems from a very accomplished poet.

                     -Cathy Essinger




1. Can you describe the process by which you completed this collection of poems? When did you know these poems would go together in a collection? As you were writing them?


The process was pretty simple. I wrote the poems one at a time. When I had a number of them I knew they could go into a full length. I am not the kind of writer who thinks thematically about a book while writing the individual poems. To me, each poem has its reason to be and my focus is to bring it forth. I believe that even if I wasn’t concern about a theme there are threads in the poems to organize them.


2.       Do you have a favorite poem of your own?

No. I don’t like to choose one of my “poetic” children over another. I feel attached to each of my poems as they come into being. But this attachment is lessened with time.


3.       How has your writing process evolved over the years?

There is still the basic struggle to express, to put into words the unsayable. And over time, I think I have given more thought to the reader, becoming more mindful about if and how my poems communicate. I am not dogmatic about any school of thought in poetry, but I do think poems ought to communicate.  I am concerned about craft, but at the same time I believe there are such things like mystery and humanity that go beyond mere craft.   


4.       Who are your favorite active poets today?

Adam Zagajewski, Linda Gregg, Lawrence Raab, Lisel Mueller, Ping Kwan Leung (Hong Kong poet), Duo Duo are among my favorites. Also, poet Tim Suermondt, who happens to be my husband.


5.       What are you working on now?

I am working on individual poems and hope they would be in my next book.


6.       Any sage advice for young poets today?

The same advice I give myself. Read widely and open mindedly, read classical and contemporary poets, those well-known and not-so-well-known, and read poets from other parts of the world. Listen to advice but be skeptical. It is more important to develop your own inner compass and go your own way.


A perfectly healthy sentence, it is true, is extremely rare. For the most part we miss the hue and fragrance of the thought; as if we could be satisfied with the dews of the morning or evening without their colors, or the heavens without their azure. - Henry David Thoreau


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