Grit & Decolonisation / an interview with poet Moylin Yuan

Grit

by Moylin Yuan

washing down igneous rock
Spattered in bird waste
All speckled and sun coloured
Remember the climbs and twisted ankles
++++++your fingers onto fissures, crags stacked with oysters, their tongues
Waiting for the tides
We ran after the shells
hiding under waves
++++++the new elders soaking toes under
foaming sands
++++++when being, vanishing, was a phasing Sexuality

Decolonisation

by Moylin Yuan

Softly we un-borrow the ivory shells,
learn to lean towards ourselves
Identity shifting in sand
Now it’s daily weather, with dunes
drifting at different levels
Every morning if the sun burns my skin
Would you call my name?

Both poems first appeared in Peach Velvet Magazine 2018

me

Moylin Yuan is a self-taught designer, illustrator, and occasional art director, born and raised in Dubai, UAE. She enjoys working with paper in all formats (print publications, modular origami, turning dollars into koi…) and reading as many abstract concepts as possible.

Moylin says of her style, “I try to keep the flow loose and abstract, and often imbibe visual symbols in my work and play with their possible meanings, questioning the language I use to portray scenes. I strongly think my poetry style is still developing itself. I’m not sure what it is yet, but for me words hold a kind of vibration, and if they kind of echo constantly I try to jot them down as quickly as possible. Once that’s done I’ll pull apart the concepts and experiment to see how the flow changes.”

Bekah and Moylin’s work—including the poems above—appeared together in the “Seconds to Consume” issue of Peach Velvet Magazine. We wanted to know more about Moylin and her poetry, so here is our interview with her.

Q~Tell us a little about these poems. Is there a backstory you want to share? 

A~The poem, “Grit,” was actually my first attempt at concrete (shape?) poetry Indented poetry can look like waves seeping back and forth, and I wanted to go all out indenting without feeling embarrassed by it. I also wanted to address sexuality and the freedom to sit with not knowing your preferences.

There’s also a sexual beauty branded to the beach which I was attempting to pull at. We’re young! We’re old! I wanted to say there’s a beauty to being, and allowing for contemplation to experiment or refrain as you wish, to not know, to not be certain. Like how we are within life. To be a child again playing with waves, which can be deadly.

The poem, “Decolonisation,” was initially a series of separate lines, written at different times over four years – as thoughts from conversations with different people then and now. I placed them together to see how they felt. The result left me feeling satisfyingly unresolved. Like when you finish reading a good book or run a mile thinking by yourself. I’m addressing many themes in this poem – decolonisation, obviously, but also what it means to live and work in Dubai, the tropes people associate with this place and my tropes within it.

These two poems were written at different points in time. Possibly a year apart. I write on the Notes app and transfer after to my laptop after a gestation period. This affords some distance to the words and reduces the chances of decimating the energy of the language, for me. I mostly write verses when on moving transport. The flow seems to work better. Sitting and focusing on writing is quite difficult – I don’t do well in libraries or offices!

Q~Do you find yourself returning to certain themes or subjects in your work? What are they and why do they resonate with you?

A~Sand or earth in various forms, water and/or its bodies, and a lot of references to actual sounds, (such as spoken sentences), are what tend to surface in the poems I’ve written. Not so much smell. Maybe because I associate language and the world with what I actually hear. I’m not sure! But, those tropes tend to end up in the verses, they vibrate my brain.

Q~How has your experience as a poetry reader at Longleaf Review influenced your own writing?

A~It’s a gratifying process, to be able to read people’s submissions from around the world. I think it has made me more aware of the rules in poetry and what can be broken (maybe everything). I am less hesitant in experimenting as well. Seeing others imbuing confidence in their own voices encourages me to raise my own.

Q~What’s one piece of advice you want to share?

A~Honestly, I haven’t applied much yet, and therefore haven’t had many rejections. It takes work to apply well. By that I mean applying to publications or zines etc.,that I enjoy reading or that would feel aligned to the theme of the work. I encourage applying to the places you read and love, because what you like and whom you work with becomes a reflection of who (or what) you identify with or try to be.

And, if it doesn’t work out there’s always somewhere else. And, if there isn’t somewhere else, start your own zine or publication or blog etc. Self-publication is a great way to learn the process of publishing – the editorial work of copy editing, grammatical and ethical debates of editing someone else’s work and so on.

Also, it’s important to submit and support your local presses and publication houses. They need your good content! And reviews! And if you can, your sentiments in monetary value… 🙂

Q~Are you involved in your local poetry scene? If so, what’s it like?

A~I’m barely involved, honestly… Partly because spoken word or slam poetry is very popular here, and that’s beyond my comfort level right now! I’m usually the audience. Some of the all-stars within the local scene include Afra Atiq and Rewa Zeinati.

Q~Is a literary gem you feel deserves more attention? Why will we love them?

A~I’d like to highlight two publications currently being produced by friends – Locale and LIFTA. Both promote inclusivity and positivity for communities that have often been narrated to, and I’d love for more people to dig and complicate their lives with these multiple narratives. Life isn’t black and white, and it’s important (even more so, these days) to bring in different stories and listen to multiple points of view:

Q~Who was your poetry first love?

A~This question had me thinking for awhile! Having been exposed to poets from early on (a lot of Rabindranath Tagore…) I can’t say who was the first, but it might have been a triple threat combo of Pablo Neruda, Maya Angelou’s poems and Virginia Woolf’s letter to Vita Sackville-West, when I was in university.

After graduation, I fell into reading poetry from Rumi, quickly moving to Mahmoud Darwish, and Etel Adnan –  in longing for belonging to a land, for being, and loving what was always around. Now though, if not reading contemporary poets, I’m digging Sufi poets like Amir Khusrow, and catching up on the gaps of my education of poets in Asia, geographically.

Q~Who are you reading now?

A~I am still reading the Goddess of Democracy by Henry Wei Leung. It is my movable feast.

Q~Where can readers go if they are interested in reading more of your work?

A~I’m working on this, but for now my poetry is tagged within my personal blog. You can also connect with me on Instagram and Twitter.

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