Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Lisa Kiew

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.


Lisa Kiew

A chinese-malaysian living in London, L Kiew earns her living as an accountant. She holds a MSc in Creative Writing and Literary Studies from Edinburgh University. In 2017 she took part in the Poetry School/London Parks and Gardens Trusts Mixed Borders Poets Residency Scheme and the Toast Poetry mentoring programme. She was shortlisted for 2017 Primers mentoring and publication scheme. Her poems have been published in Butcher’s Dog, Ink Sweat and Tears, Lighthouse, Obsessed with Pipework, Tears in the Fence, The Scores and The North among other magazines and websites. Her debut pamphlet is coming out with Offord Road Books in 2019.
Her website is here: http://www.lhhkiew.co.uk/
Full details about her forthcoming pamphlet: https://www.offordroadbooks.co.uk/the-unquiet

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I’ve always been excited by the many possibilities of poetry, how it has open and closed forms, and how it is oral as well as written. I’m also inspired by the thin line between reader and poet. I especially love poetries that welcome in and make the reader a co-creator of meanings.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I studied poetry at school like many people. I was also lucky to have access to good town libraries and so made happy discoveries among their stacks.

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

The school syllabus was certainly dominated by the dead and the white back then.  It was harder to find those other voices and the internet and social media have made it easier to access poetry beyond the big publishers. We have a lot more diversity and I don’t think any generation dominates in the same way as it could even ten years ago.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I get up early to read and write for an hour before I go to work. Sometimes it’s more reading than writing, and sometimes the other way around.

5. What motivates you to write?

Anything and everything! Words and phrases snag in my ears or in my eyes.  It can feel like an itch I need to scratch away at on paper.

6. What is your work ethic?

I like to keep at it. But it can be hard to fit writing around the rest of your life, especially if the day job is demanding a lot.

7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

I was influenced by Sylvia Plath and by Imagist and Surrealist poetry. I’m still interested in fragmentation and dispersion, breaking down and splintering apart the norms of language. I like the way small concrete details can take us to surprising places in our heads.

8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

There are so many poets that I admire; I really admire what I think of as Northern American writers’ more conversational style and playfulness. I am really enjoying Heather Christle, Franny Choi, Victoria Chang and Yaya Yao. In the UK Hannah Lowe, Sarah Howe, Mary-Jean Chan and Jennifer Wong are helping me to think about my mixed cultural heritage. Singaporean poet Alvin Pang inspired me to explore different kinds of Englishes in my writing. Amy Macauley is prompting me to think more about performance and moving beyond the page.

9. Why do you write?

It’s one of the ways I think about the world. As a mixed-race woman and a migrant, I am always being forced to see myself through others’ eyes, by casual comments, what’s written and shown in the media. Poetry is one of the ways I reclaim my experience and represent it back. Being multilingual, I am fascinated by language and with poetry, I can pull and play across languages, registers and vocabularies.

10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

I’d always say start by reading. It helps you find your voice, as well as showing you what there is to write in dialogue with and to write in rejection of.

11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

My pamphlet, The Unquiet, comes out with Offord Road Books in February 2019 https://www.offordroadbooks.co.uk/the-unquiet
I’m currently working on a project exploring the language used about non-native plant and animal species; it seems to be the time to think about belonging or not, and what that means for both humans and the other lifeforms we share this planet with.




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