interviewed by the tender, young, virile writer

DeWitt Brinson

DeWitt Brinson: What have you looked at the most?

Muriel Leung: I have always loved the look of flowers and the light burned into the dark of your eyes when you close them after staring at length at something all too bright. 

DB: How do you know you're you and when you are not yourself?

ML: I challenge myself to a dance-off and then I take home the victor.

DB: Put your fingers in your ears and make a face.

ML: I turn into a dandelion nightmare (yikes!)

DB: Who inspires you?

ML: My mother when she’s not furious. My mother when she’s furious.


        Also: Theresa Hak Kyung Cha. Yuri Kochiyama. Trinh T. Minh-ha. etc. 

DB: You walk in a room where everyone's mouth has been replaced with mirrors. Your poetry is taped to the wall. What are you cradling in your arms?

ML: Thank you everyone for loaning me your mouths for the evening! I’m keeping them safe and cutely in a mouth-shaped handbag. The waiver you signed upon crossing this threshold and some time after your first sip of gallery wine means whatever happens next—I am not liable. Let me wear your mouth for a little bit and look upon your face. I am looking into the mirror of your face and saying dirty words that ricochet off your mirror-mouth. I want the whiskers of your chin to blush and everyone else wobbly at the knees. I will wear your husband’s mouth and then a stranger’s mouth and I will wear them upside down. I will wear someone else’s mouth on my nose or my armpit. I will brush your mouth’s teeth and rinse it out with cherry Kool-Aid and I will eat a piece of cake real slow. I put all my fingers and toes in a single mouth and bite them all off. No one is looking at the poetry on the wall.

DB: Who's a jerk?

ML: The baddest kid on the playground with a smashed up heart.

DB: To me images and words are both translations and objects separate from their own meaning. What are they to you?

ML: I think of images and words as different operating systems of language, which means that they are composed of various symbols and means of deciphering. In a sense, “translation” describes the process of how we “read” them well because language, in all its clarity as well as its ambiguities, is always mediated. There is always context and affect; the slipperiness of reading and reading carefully—and careful reading often times yielding further ambiguities and inquiry.


I don’t believe in the hierarchal ordering of images over words or words over images, but I believe that when placed together, we don’t get a discordant clash of languages (unless otherwise intended), but the joining of senses that provoke us to relearn how we “translate” images and words each time. I think particularly of the blending of moving image, visual text, and audio, and how the simultaneity of all these devices engages our various senses. I would like to think that they teach us how to respond in the fashion of their conjoined making—in multiple tongues.

DB: What is your body?

ML: These days, I have been feeling like my body is the most tiresome tinker instrument or some terrible engine running on fumes and fury. To be fair, it is very functional. It spite-loves dairy and curried meats. It often does what I want it to except it is excessively greedy with sleep and feels remorse. It travels.    

DB: Have you ever followed anybody? Why not or how did it go?

ML: I won’t follow anyone that won’t follow me and it has as much to do with my stubbornness as it does their underlying suspicion that I was never meant to follow anyone anyway.

DB: Sit on the grass for one minute then come in and write something (you have to do this now even if its raining).

ML: Odd words falling out of my mouth and a something quiet. What am I? Made of lists. I have to call the dentist and tell him about my cramped teeth and I hope something about my cramped teeth will explain all other ailments. I would have to go rearrange my furniture for the umpteenth time because the rug is always curling the wrong way. Something mews outdoors. Even now, when I teach people close to my age, I do the kindergarten teacher “shhh!” with my palms flat in the air like I’m compressing some voluminous bulb of sound (it is strangely effective across all age groups) but I don’t want to be patronizing. Am I thinking too much about internalized ageism during a “free write”? Someone always gives me permission to do the “free” thing and I always go wayward. Like a dropped ball of yarn. All these questions and matter of skin. It would be so much fun to wear, I think. 

Muriel Leung is a multimedia poet and former teaching artist from Queens, NY. Her poetry and essays can be found or is forthcoming in Coconut, Bone Bouquet, Dark Phrases, and RE/VISIONIST. She is a recipient of a Kundiman fellowship. Currently, she is a MFA candidate in poetry at Louisiana State University where she also serves as the Assistant Editor ofNew Delta Review.