Tuesday, 23 April 2013

[archived] Allen Qing Yuan & Changming Yuan Interviewed by Nostrovia! Poetry

Interview with Allen Qing Yuan & Changming Yuan, managers of Poetry Pacific

LINK:  http://nostroviawriting.wordpress.com/2013/04/23/interview-with-allen-qing-yuan-changming-yuan-managers-of-poetry-pacific/

Interviewer: Jeremiah Walton, Editor of Nostrovia! Poetry
Date posted: 23 April 2013, Tuesday

Allen Qing Yuan, born in Canada and aged 17, currently attends high school and co-edits Poetry Pacific in Vancouver. Mentored by his poet father, Allen has, since grade 10, had poetry appear in more than 50 literary publications across 12 countries, which include Blue Fifth Review, Contemporary American Voices, Cordite Poetry Review, Istanbul Literary Review, Literary Review of Canada, Mobius, Ottawa Arts Review, Paris/Atlantic, Poetry Scotland, Spillway, Taj Mahal Review and Two Thirds North. Poetry submissions welcome at yuans@shaw.ca.
Changming Yuan, 4-time Pushcart nominee and author of Allen Qing Yuan, grew up in rural China and published several monographs before moving to Canada. With a PhD in English, Changming works as a private tutor in Vancouver, where he edits and publishes Poetry Pacific. Changming’s poetry appears in 669 literary journals/anthologies across 25 countries, including Asia Literary Review, Barrow Street, Best Canadian Poetry, BestNewPoemsOnline, Exquisite Corpse, Istanbul Literary Review, LiNQ, London Magazine, Paris/Atlantic, Poetry Kanto, Salzburg Review, SAND, Taj Mahal Review, Threepenny Review and Two Thirds North.Poetry submissions welcome at yuans@shaw.ca.

1) What first inspired you to write poetry?
Allen: I think the art of poetry itself inspired me to start writing poetry. I love expressing myself with diverse language and form; poetry is very accepting and has no limitations. Whenever I walk home from school, I would notice little things here and there; for example, I always seemed to miss the traffic light. Based on this observation, I wrote my first poem “Traffic Light” which surprisingly was well-received. From then on, I would write poems in my spare time about my personal struggles and everyday life. I like being able to connect with other people through my words and ideas.
Changming: On the evening of 6 August 2004, during our first family trip to Banff as tourists, I was climbing the mountain behind our hotel all by myself, since my wife and two sons all had refused to go together with me. Reflecting on my totally marginalized existence, and recalling all kinds of hardships I had been suffering, I became choked with sadness and could not help bursting into tears. To release this emotional tension, I tried to sing at the top of my voice those old songs I used to sing when I was forced to labor on a forest farm during the Chinese Cultural Revolution in the mid-1970s. At the same time, I felt the urge to write something. At 8:35 pm, I finished scribbling my seed poem ‘The Lonely Climber’ in English on a piece of paper found on the mountain. Since that rainy moment, I have written more than 1,000 poems, and luckily had almost 800 of them published worldwide.

2) What made you step up to begin working on Poetry Pacific?
Allen: After much discussion with my partner, we decided to start up Poetry Pacific because we believed we had editorial insight and the experience to run a magazine that published good content.
Changming: I meant to establish a literary outlet at a later time when I could not write much poetry any more, but to enrich and deepen Allen’s poetry experience before going to university, we discussed the feasibility and almost impulsively started the publishing enterprise on the Remembrance Day last year.

3) What style of poetry do you prefer receiving for Poetry Pacific?
Allen: I’m very open-minded content-wise, but I like to keep things appropriate for all ages; I do have a preference for short but sweet poems though.
Changming: As Allen has just said, we are open to all kinds of poetry in terms of content, form or style, though personally I prefer free verse or, to be more exact, short and truly lyric poetry.

4) What can a submitter do to get on your good side (besides submitting awesome poetry)?
Allen: Promotion is always helpful for our e.zine, but I wouldn’t judge someone’s poetry any differently, even if the submitter is disrespectful. Talent and skill should be recognized. I don’t like suck-ups and I’m sure people go through enough hassle perfecting their work.
Changming: We would greatly appreciate it if the submitter tries to help spread the word about Poetry Pacific within his or her social network.

5) What are your goals for Poetry Pacific?
Allen: I don’t really have a detailed plan for Poetry Pacific, but I certainly hope it will become an elite magazine that is recognized for both refined taste and excellent quality. I love the idea of one day seeing a well-read person at the coffee shop reading our poetry online or in print. Hopefully PP is still around a century from now as a part of our heritage.
Changming: Some of our goals for Poetry Pacific include turning it into a major poetry platform to promote poetic exchanges between English and Chinese, since these are the world’s two most widely used languages. For instance, we can divide our magazine into two language parts, or set up a separate Chinese counterpart to introduce first-rate English poetry or poets to Chinese readers and vice versa. Also, we hope to build Poetry Pacific into a highly influential poetry forum, dealing with every important topic about the writing, editing, publishing and reading of poetry.

6) Will Poetry Pacific ever enter chapbook publishing in the future?
Allen: I’m sure we would love to do anything that we can be successful in. There is no better thrill than being adventurous.
Changming: The same here; we certainly would like to do that and even book publishing, but we have no specific plans for the moment.

7) Do you intend to enter print publishing at any times?
Allen: Of course. Although print magazines may seem to be dying, there is no other way to scream ‘quality’ in literature. Like website content, printed material can be designed in so many ways; it will really add flavour to the reading experience.
Changming: Yes, we will embark on print publishing as soon as we are technically ready.

8) Do you have any rituals that you do when starting/writing/finishing a poem?
Allen: For writing poems, I don’t really have a specific ritual, but I usually scribble on paper first instead of directly typing it. You feel more connected to the piece in front of you, unlike the way when you are working on the computer. After I type it up, I edit it a few days later just to refresh my editorial judgement. I refine it and change parts until I feel satisfied. Listening to a variety of songs before I edit helps too for some reason. That might just be like a placebo or something.
Changming: Not really ‘rituals’ in my case either, but rather I would call them habits. I draw all my inspirations from my reading, observing and meditating experiences, often conceiving poems while trying to sleep at night – as a result, I have been suffering badly from insomnia. It usually takes me about 3 to 15 minutes to finish scribbling a piece on a pad. For the past 5 years or so, I have been writing about 20 poems on a monthly basis; typically, i would refine or polish them at least 3 times on the computer before adding them up to my ‘workbook’ for future submissions. Every month, I would make a couple of hundred submissions, and get about 20 acceptances. For me, writing is the most enjoyable part, while submitting the most hateful and boring thing to do, an evil necessity, to use a cliche.

9) Among thousands of literary outlets, Poetry Pacific is a unique two-man two-generation operation, and certainly shows good teamwork. How do you collaborate, and what are the challenges you are facing at this stage?
Allen: I am not really that good with computers, but Changming is even lousier with them, so one of my main duties is to provide the basic technical support. Also, I screen poetry submissions and select what I find publishable before discussing my choices with Changming. Whenever we have a dispute, we would negotiate and try to find a solution for the real long-term benefit of our ezine. For instance, I proposed to follow the blind policy to ensure the high quality of the work accepted.
Changming: You are right; we are a unique team in at least two ways. For one thing, we are, to my best knowledge, probably the only actively publishing father-son poetry team across the contemporary English speaking world.  More notable perhaps, both of us work with English as our second language: while Allen had to see a language therapist because he had difficulty learning English when he was little, I did not begin to learn the English alphabet until I was almost 20 year of age in China. Because my teachers and classmates often made fun of my village accent, I have never felt comfortable when speaking English, though I prefer to write in this foreign language.
As for our teamwork, Allen is extremely busy with his studies and various extracurricular pursuits, so it is my main responsibility to communicate with submitters, trying to promote our magazine and enlarge our literary network. The two biggest challenges we have now are technical deficiency and lack of submissions. Because my health condition prevents me from working long with computers, nor do I have enough online know-hows, we cannot operate or  develop our site in the way we would like to; naturally, as a fledgling magazine,  we have had relatively very limited submissions to select work from, but once we find a good volunteer web-developer, we can improve the situation fast and substantially.

10) Last but not least, you two are an interesting father-son team; what can you share with us about this, which you two must feel very proud of?
Allen: I never expected to write or publish poetry, let alone begin to do so at the  age of 15, but ever since 2005, every time my father receives a contributor’s copy, he would show or ask me to read his work, no matter whether I like it or not. In 2010, I became interested in poetry and, under his strong encouragement, tried to write some of my own. During the Christmas time of that year, he gave me a list of literary magazines and suggested me making submissions to them. On January 10, I got my very first acceptance while visiting my grandparents in Jingzhou, China.
Changming: Thanks for the nice term, which Editor Jayne Jaudon Ferrer of Your Daily Poem used once as well. There are two things I want to mention. One is that I believe poetry runs in the blood of the Yuans. When he was young, my father Yuan Hongqi wanted to be a poet and even had a secret pen name for himself, but sadly he was never able to publish any poems in his lifetime. Before going to  Shanghai Jiaotong University, I dreamed about becoming a poet; however, I never even had the honor of getting a rejection slip after making dozens of poetry submissions. Now I feel more than delighted that not only have Allen and I  become both widely published worldwide, but my elder son George Lai Yuan is also beginning to write and publish poetry. This comforting fact reminds me of the famous Yuan Brothers, the three literary giants of the Ming Dynasty from Gong-an, the same small county I happened to grew up in. I am not sure how close or how far we three petty Yuans are related to those three great Yuans in terms of family trees, but needless to say, this is a happy coincidence. Also, I am glad to say that Allen and I often appear in the same issue of the same magazine. Sometimes I even get work accepted because of him; for instance, after Editor Susan Terris of Spillway accepted Allen for issue 18, she asked me to make a submission and eventually chose one piece from it. Quite ironically, Allen never gets anything accepted because of me, but such is exactly what we prefer; the reason is simple: as his father/mentor, it is highly important for me to help develop Allen’s self-confidence by exploring his natural poetic talent.

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