Poetry News

Emily Temple Interviews National Book Award Finalists Rae Armantrout and Diana Khoi Nguyen

By Harriet Staff

Literary Hub is interviewing this year's National Book Award Finalists in advance of the annual awards ceremony on November 14. Rae Armantrout is a finalist for Wobble (Wesleyan, 2018), while Diana Khoi Nguyen has been shortlisted for her collection Ghost Of (Omnidawn, 2018). Emily Temple leads her conversation with Armantrout by asking: "Who do you most wish would read this book? (your boss, your childhood bully, Michelle Obama, etc.)." From there: 

I think my father was my childhood bully. He’s dead now, but I wish he could have read this book. I have no idea what he would have made of it, but he would have been surprised. He didn’t have a very high opinion of women. He read a good deal but never spoke about books to me or to my mother. As I recall, he never gave me the slightest encouragement. I became a writer both because and in spite of him.

What do you always want to talk about in interviews but never get to?

I would like to discuss my use of rhyme—by which I mean subject rhyme more that sonic rhyme. I’m interested in the way one image may echo or complement another while also being part of a very different conceptual landscape. (For that matter, I’d like to talk about the importance of literal landscape in my poems.)

What time of day do you write (and why)?

I take a notebook with me wherever I go so I can write down interesting things I see or hear—as well as promising stray thoughts. Almost every morning, I look at that notebook to see if there’s anything there I can develop into a poem. So, over coffee in the morning, when the caffeine hits, I try to coax new poems into being or I work on poems I’ve already started.

Read more at Literary Hub, with Temple's conversation with Khoi Nguyen, here.

Originally Published: November 6th, 2018