In The Field: Conversations With Our Contributors—Jennifer Huang

by Aug 30, 2023

Two Asian women, the older one sitting on a rock; the younger holding both her hands and standing in the water; mountains in the background.

Original artwork by swords4two

Shoreline” is a beautiful poem that opens V25 and speaks to generational longing. What was the impetus behind this poem?

I love how you put it—”generational longing”—because that feels so accurate. At first, this poem was a part of a longer series I was trying to write about water and the ways it had followed me throughout the years. When I wrote this poem, I was thinking of the connection between oceans and origins. The ocean as the place where my ancestors had to cross to get to the U.S., as the place that also holds me in distance from my heritage, origins, ancestors. Also thinking of the connection between water and birth, the womb as the first home. What happens when we leave that home? And then, of course, the longing for that home again, which is also a longing for maybe a simpler time.

One thing I love about this piece is the ebb and flow in each line, echoing the motion of waves. Was that a conscious crafting, or did it form like that, or a bit of both?

I have a visual arts background so I often strive to make my poems look the way that they feel. The ebbing and flowing indented lines was one of the last edits I made to this poem, which was once a 14-line, non-rhyming sonnet. Once I got the lines how I wanted them to be, it felt natural to give more shape to the poem visually.

On your website, it says that one of your focuses is food advocacy. Do you find your farming and food advocacy seep into your writing? How can citizens help cultivate better food advocacy?

I started farming and thinking more about food this past year. I’m trying to write more about food and environment and farming—which I sometimes do in this very sporadic newsletter—but I have a lot of thoughts and questions that are more feelings than words right now.

Maybe one way to help cultivate better food advocacy is to start at the individual and community level—to be curious about the food we eat, where it comes from, who makes it or grows it. To also visit local farmers markets and to engage with those growers. I think the recent census said that only 2% of the U.S. population is involved in agriculture. There’s so much that the majority of us don’t know—so much that I didn’t know I didn’t know until I started working on a farm. And as climate change more rapidly affects communities, I think it’s becoming more urgent for us all to be involved with our local food systems and agriculture.

You have a blog devoted to tarot reading, an art I’ve always found fascinating. What drew you to tarot reading, and does that practice work your way into your poetry?

For a long time, I used tarot as a coping mechanism—as a way to try to embed some kind of certainty or control over my life. Now, I turn to it as a way to tell stories and to see things from different perspectives. When I pull cards, I can see the plethora of ways they could be read, the different stories that could be told. Where before that would make me nervous, today it makes me excited about the strange possibilities of life. In this vein, I think the cards have a beautiful lore to them. Tapping into those lores and archetypes feels very human and mystical all at once. I don’t use tarot directly in my poetry, but I do think that the ways I see tarot now are similar to the ways I want to write poems.

What are some books or authors that inspire you?

One book I read recently that I love is When I Sing, Mountains Dance by Irene Solá. It’s an incredible book that tells the story of a family in the Pyrenees through different perspectives—both human and non. My favorite chapters come from the point of view of mushrooms, storms, dogs. It’s a really poetic book. I read it a few months ago and still can’t stop talking about it and recommending it.

You have many poetry and prose pieces in online journals and magazines, like The Margins and wildness; recently you published “Return Flight” with Milkweed, and you have won numerous awards. What are you working on now?

I went through a major creative dry spell after my book came out, but recently, I’ve been writing some one-off poems that explore climate change, human-environment relations, the landscape of Oregon’s coastal range, gender, and wild-love. I don’t know where these poems will take me, if they’ll make another book, but I’m enjoying the process of writing again.

Jennifer Huang, in a pink shirt, green pants and a cap, smiling, in front a green shrub.Jennifer Huang is the author of Return Flight, published by Milkweed Editions in 2022. Their poems and essays have appeared in POETRY, The Rumpus, Literary Hub, and Poetry Northwest, among other places. In 2020, Huang earned their MFA from the University of Michigan Helen Zell Writers’ Program. They are currently based in their hometown of Rockville, Maryland.


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