Go Ahead, Become the Becoming: A Conversation with Aiden Heung ✺

Aiden Heung & Ruoyu Wang

Interviews

Go Ahead, Become the Becoming: A Conversation with Aiden Heung ✺

Ruoyu: Aiden, I loved the tongue-in-cheek humor of “Phenomenon of the Everyday.” With its sharp statements and quick beats, the poem effortlessly bounds out of the speaker’s voice. In a way, the character this takes on is undeniably proud, flaunting: they are everything they want to be at once, yet they are only everything they have control over. In the crossing between ego and attraction, what do we find in the impulse to prove something? If the pride in this poem grants it the ability to manipulate the speaker’s very being, what is the risk? What are they losing, and what are they afraid to lose?


Aiden: This is in every possible way a persona poem in that the flaunting and attractive speaker in the poem is what I want to be. I want to be outspoken about my desires, kinks, and manipulation. In real life, I’m quite shy about these aspects. The area of “ego and attraction” is yet to be mapped. But in poetry I have found freedom to look into myself, to create a speaker. If I need to prove something in the crossing, I think it is the unabashed willingness to live as one wants to live, even momentarily in writing. The risk of manipulating our voices and beings? I would say every way of discovery, including through being proudly assertive, comes not without self-demolition. Don’t we gather smithereens of yesterday to build this new “us” every day? Sometimes we lose ourselves in becoming someone new. It’s painful. I know. Go ahead, become the becoming.




Ruoyu: Reading “Us Strangers,” I’m so interested in your thoughts on confrontation and what it means to know someone. The speaker announces, “I’m an open hand: / I want flowers, chocolate,” there’s “a sea / I should have known better.” It can’t be that hard, after all, just “read me like a face.” So much in this poem is reliant upon reception and response, even pulling for these “strangers” to come when called. Here, there is so much understanding that surfaces by a person simply looking you in the eyes. When making the deliberate choice to stand before someone, whether in anger or softness or intimacy, how much of what we are looking for can be found in the anticipation? How much can we ask of the other person? For them to reveal themselves as well?

Aiden: Indeed, how much can be found in anticipation versus how much can actually be found in someone? This duality seems to be the very source of pain in all kinds of relationships. This poem is indeed exploring the idea of want. In the poem, the speaker indulges in anticipation. This projection of want onto a stranger can be tragicomical. But I’m glad the speaker doesn’t require a response. That’s the message. I don’t believe we should ask anyone to reveal themselves. The best is that we listen and embrace the other person. Then we communicate and find the best zone where we can coexist amicably. In the meanwhile, enjoy every moment: the anticipation, the disappointment, the joy, as Rilke wonderfully said, “Just keep going. No feeling is final”.





Ruoyu: Could you tell me about one piece of art—this could be anything from other poems to TV show scripts—that has been deeply formative in creating the spaces your work exists in? In what ways does it continue to compel you towards new understandings? 

Aiden: I keep returning to William Carlos Williams’ book Spring and All. It’s a book that influenced my writings in many ways: it convinced me to look into the world I lived in through its sharp objectivism; it compelled me to look at English (my second language) in a more vernacular way; I learned to consider how I have been shaped by the world I live in and how I’m entangled into its sociopolitical/cultural/historical network. He taught me to build a world in my poems instead of awkwardly imitating it. ✺

Read the piece here.


Aiden Heung

Aiden Heung (He/They) is a Chinese poet born in a Tibetan Autonomous Town. His English poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Australian Poetry Journal, The Missouri Review, Poetry International, Harvard Review, Cincinnati Review, Crazyhorse, Black Warrior Review, The Minnesota Review, among many other places. After working as a traveling salesman for many years, he recently relocated to St.Louis where he is an MFA candidate at Washington University. 


Twitter: @aidenheung


Tip the author through PayPal xiangqiushi@live.com



Ruoyu Wang | Interviewer

Ruoyu Wang (王若雨) is based in Washington state, where they enjoy cold walks. An Adroit Prizes commended winner in poetry, their work appears in The Shore, Sine Theta, COUNTERCLOCK, and elsewhere. Find them at their website.

Published

Mar 16, 2024

Go Ahead, Become the Becoming: A Conversation with Aiden Heung ✺

Aiden Heung & Ruoyu Wang

Interviews

Ruoyu: Aiden, I loved the tongue-in-cheek humor of “Phenomenon of the Everyday.” With its sharp statements and quick beats, the poem effortlessly bounds out of the speaker’s voice. In a way, the character this takes on is undeniably proud, flaunting: they are everything they want to be at once, yet they are only everything they have control over. In the crossing between ego and attraction, what do we find in the impulse to prove something? If the pride in this poem grants it the ability to manipulate the speaker’s very being, what is the risk? What are they losing, and what are they afraid to lose?


Aiden: This is in every possible way a persona poem in that the flaunting and attractive speaker in the poem is what I want to be. I want to be outspoken about my desires, kinks, and manipulation. In real life, I’m quite shy about these aspects. The area of “ego and attraction” is yet to be mapped. But in poetry I have found freedom to look into myself, to create a speaker. If I need to prove something in the crossing, I think it is the unabashed willingness to live as one wants to live, even momentarily in writing. The risk of manipulating our voices and beings? I would say every way of discovery, including through being proudly assertive, comes not without self-demolition. Don’t we gather smithereens of yesterday to build this new “us” every day? Sometimes we lose ourselves in becoming someone new. It’s painful. I know. Go ahead, become the becoming.




Ruoyu: Reading “Us Strangers,” I’m so interested in your thoughts on confrontation and what it means to know someone. The speaker announces, “I’m an open hand: / I want flowers, chocolate,” there’s “a sea / I should have known better.” It can’t be that hard, after all, just “read me like a face.” So much in this poem is reliant upon reception and response, even pulling for these “strangers” to come when called. Here, there is so much understanding that surfaces by a person simply looking you in the eyes. When making the deliberate choice to stand before someone, whether in anger or softness or intimacy, how much of what we are looking for can be found in the anticipation? How much can we ask of the other person? For them to reveal themselves as well?

Aiden: Indeed, how much can be found in anticipation versus how much can actually be found in someone? This duality seems to be the very source of pain in all kinds of relationships. This poem is indeed exploring the idea of want. In the poem, the speaker indulges in anticipation. This projection of want onto a stranger can be tragicomical. But I’m glad the speaker doesn’t require a response. That’s the message. I don’t believe we should ask anyone to reveal themselves. The best is that we listen and embrace the other person. Then we communicate and find the best zone where we can coexist amicably. In the meanwhile, enjoy every moment: the anticipation, the disappointment, the joy, as Rilke wonderfully said, “Just keep going. No feeling is final”.





Ruoyu: Could you tell me about one piece of art—this could be anything from other poems to TV show scripts—that has been deeply formative in creating the spaces your work exists in? In what ways does it continue to compel you towards new understandings? 

Aiden: I keep returning to William Carlos Williams’ book Spring and All. It’s a book that influenced my writings in many ways: it convinced me to look into the world I lived in through its sharp objectivism; it compelled me to look at English (my second language) in a more vernacular way; I learned to consider how I have been shaped by the world I live in and how I’m entangled into its sociopolitical/cultural/historical network. He taught me to build a world in my poems instead of awkwardly imitating it. ✺