The following interview with poet Monica Sok continues the series I began back in December when I interviewed fiction writer and visual artist Swati Khurana. The series explores the intersections between the literary, the ethical, and the activist in the contemporary landscape, in light of Best American Poetry 2015 and other moments of problematic representation, appropriation, or erasure. I hope this series will also encourage readers to check out the work of the emerging writers of color featured. (I have so far focused on writers who identify as Asian American because of BAP 2015. This will not always be the case, as I move forward with the series.)
Another interview series has recently come to my attention and I'd like to give it a plug here: it's a series on a blog called "Writing like an Asian," run by Dr. Jee Yoon Lee at Georgetown University. Interviewees have included established authors like Xu Xi, Bao Phi, and Eugene Gloria as well as up-and-coming writers like Brynn Saito, Nandini Dhar, Cathy Linh Che, and yes, Monica Sok, among others. Highly recommend taking a look at these wonderful interviews, which also include talks with academics and critics.
So, in my own way here at Iron Horse, I want to add to the conversation and bring further visibility to underdiscussed subject matter and underrepresented poets and writers.
Interview with Poet Monica Sok
Monica Sok is a Cambodian poet from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She is the author of Year Zero, winner of a Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship. A Kundiman fellow, her poems appear in FIELD Magazine, Narrative, The New Republic, and TriQuarterly Review. She is the 2016-2018 Stadler Fellow at Bucknell University.
IHLR: What is one issue you want the literary world to pay more or better attention to?
Sok: There are so many important and ongoing conversations that we're having in our literary communities. The other day, my friends and I were talking about the publishing world, and how much we would love to see more POC in positions of power.
IHLR: In light of Yi-Fen Chou/BAP 2015, who is one actual Asian American (or Asian Canadian, Asian Australian, Asian...) writer everyone should be reading right now?
Sok: Barbara Jane Reyes.
IHLR: What is one literary and/or activist organization that everyone should be supporting?
Sok: Everyone should be supporting Kundiman, which gives and gives and gives to Asian American writers. It is a rare and necessary community, which has grown so much over the years, with its poetry and fiction retreat, and soon its first-ever inaugural creative nonfiction intensive with Ava Chin and Hua Hsu. I'm excited for Kundiman––and for those whose lives have changed and will change because of it.
IHLR: What projects are you working on now?
Sok: Right now, I'm waiting to make final edits to my chapbook Year Zero, which is coming out from PSA in April. In the meantime, I am also working on a longer manuscript about the Cambodian genocide, intergenerational trauma, and familial silence.
IHLR: What keeps you writing?
Sok: The desire to break open the many silences in my life.