Photo by Clare Yow
Dr. Ray Hsu is co-founder of the Art Song Lab, an interdisciplinary platform that partners 24 writers and composers to create fusions in the genre of art song alongside performers. While completing his Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he taught for two years in a US prison, where he founded the Prison Writing Workshop. The Workshop brings campus-based writers to the prison to write alongside incarcerated writers in a writers’ studio environment and mentors incarcerated writers writing towards their High-School Equivalency Diplomas. Dr. Hsu is the author of two award-winning books and writing in over fifty publications internationally. His work has been set to music and adapted for film. In addition to teaching and consulting, he has been interviewed for television, radio, and print media as UBC Expert in youth trends, popular culture, and diversity.
RUSTY TALK WITH RAY HSU
Kathryn Mockler: What is your first memory of being creative or writing creatively?
Ray Hsu: In grade 2 we had to make a book. I wrapped corrugated cardboard in felt for the covers. For the plot I ripped off the storyline for Omega Race:
KM: Why did you become a poet?
RH: They seemed to be having so much more fun than novelists, or at least I thought so as an undergrad.
KM: Could you describe your writing process?
RH: I barely write at all. Or the poems write themselves, if by poems you mean taking screen capture videos of me playing Diablo 3 in which I play a barbarian named "Poem."
KM: Do you have any advice on how to help new writers prepare to read or perform their work to an audience and/or to best engage an audience?
RH: The best thing to do is to not look over everyone's heads. Folks who do that prolly heard once that they should make "eye contact," so instead they look over everyone's heads. It's even more distracting than burying one's face in the page.
Once a friend kept looking over everyone's head while I was in the audience. My friends and students were trying to nudge me awake as subtly as they could. I call this piece, "The Critic."
KM: What writers or poets would you recommended to an aspiring writers? Or what writers were influential to you when you first started out?
RH: Anne Carson. Carleton Wilson. Al Moritz. Michael Ondaatje. Carleton Wilson.
KM: Could you discuss your interest in activism, collaboration, and experimentation and how these have influenced your artistic practise?
RH: A former member of the Weather Underground once said that the difference between being an activist and being an organizer is that organizing involves a whole lot of people whereas activism does not necessarily involve a lot of people.
Collaboration, which involves at least one other person, is appealing because I bore myself. I like to organize with my audiences. Or call them participants.
KM: Your funniest literary moment.
...may be funny in a different way from this:
KM: What are you working on now?
RH: Laying siege to the idea of "Asian Canadian culture" through this here print magazine:
RAY HSU'S MOST RECENT BOOK
Cold Sleep Permanent Afternoon, Harbour Publishing, 2010
Description from the publisher
Cold Sleep Permanent Afternoon, the follow-up to Ray Hsu’s award-winning first collection, Anthropy, is the second book in a prospective trilogy that explores the “grammar of personhood.”
Rusty Talk Editor: