M.I.A. spotlight: Dawn Sueoka

DSC00150What is the book (or story) that you are currently working on?

I’m currently working on a project having to do with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which I think is a kind of surreal and grotesque and fascinating display of capitalism and colonialism, among other things. At the same time, I can’t deny that I also find it exhilarating—like watching a Busby Berkeley musical. I’m interested in how the parade can be all these things at once. So far, the project has taken the form of me writing prose-poem “translations” of each float in the 2013 parade. I haven’t gotten very far yet.

 Where did the idea come from and does it fall under a specific genre?

I’m not sure why, but I sometimes have intense emotional reactions to certain large public spectacles. I have literally teared up watching youtube videos of the Goodyear Blimp taking off, and of the Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade. Isn’t that strange? When I was casting around for something new to do, I asked myself “well, what am I curious about now?” and the answer was, of course, parades!

At the moment, the project has taken the form of prose poems, but again, I’m not far into it at all. It may take different forms as the project and my thinking about it continue to develop. I’m especially interested in further exploring ideas relating to translation. Having read a lot of French and Japanese work in translation, I find that there’s a slight awkwardness or abruptness—self-consciousness, maybe?—to the language and especially the syntax that I’m drawn to. What, exactly, is going on there, and why?

What are you currently reading (and why should others be reading it too)?

I’ve been reading books relating to my parade project. I can’t get enough of Carina Finn and Stephanie Berger’s brilliant The Grey Bird, a collection of emoji poems and translations. I’m reading Johannes Göransson’s Haute Surveillance, though I have to admit, I can only read a little at a time because it’s extremely intense and violent—like a mashup of Bosch, PRISM, and Videodrome. Varese’s translation of Rimbaud’s Illuminations is right next to my computer, and I want to get my hands on Ashbery’s too, as I have recently read some interesting things he’s said about translating Rimbaud.

What are some upcoming titles in your reading list?

Sandra Simonds’s The Sonnets. Claudia Rankine’s Citizen. Jaimie Nagle’sGertrude’s AtticFinery, the online journal of Gina Abelkop’s awesome Birds of Lace Press, published an excerpt from a comic called Meowsers by Caroline Picard. I don’t know any details, but I’d love to see more!

Who/what inspires your writing?

My partner, Genevieve Manset, is a huge inspiration to me. We’re both writers (we met in the Naropa low-residency MFA program) and we try to keep each other motivated. We read our work aloud to each other, discuss what we’re reading, share writing exercises, and swap books.

In addition, I’m inspired by the usual: bits of overheard dialogue, politics, visual art, song lyrics, people watching, my own weird dreams. In the last few years, I’ve been really enjoying a WFMU radio show called “Do or DIY” with People Like Us, aka artist Vicki Bennett. The collage aspect of the show has been really useful to my own work.

What does your writing process entail?

I try to write for an hour before work every day—more on the weekends. I “warm up” by writing stream-of-consciousness “nonsense,” usually based on random notes I’ve jotted down in my notebook. (Looking back over these warm-ups, I see that I am often asking myself “what is going on here?”) Then I get into more deliberate work, like revising. For me the key is carving out time for daily practice. If I go too many days without writing, it’s difficult for me to get back into the groove.

Who would you like to give a shout out to in the writing community and why?

Without a doubt, Jaimie Nagle. It’s a tremendous amount of work to organize one reading, let alone one a month for five years straight!  I feel a great sense of community around MIA readings, and I always return home inspired to write. I’m so grateful for everything Jaimie’s done, and I’m looking forward to the next five years :).


Author: MIA Honolulu

We are a Honolulu-based literary series featuring local, national, and international writers and artists every third Thursday in Chinatown.

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