James Lindsay: Perhaps this is an impossible question to answer, but where do you look for the voice? Does it come from within, or do you find it outside of yourself?
Phoebe Wang: The boundary between the inner and the outer is porous as the body. The inner voice is shaped by outer, historical forces - the weight of colonial policy that made English the language I mostly think in, but it’s an English inflected by a particular lack, an English spoken and sung by my Chinese parents, mixed in with Cantonese vowels. So I look for the voice of a poem among the accents and intonations, the billboards and overheard expletives, the jams and lectures that seep through the ear and the body into the poetry making machine of the mind and the spirit. An image, a few phrases will arrive and sound true. I speak them slowly, because at times the poet is a ventriloquist, and the poem a foreign language. The voice of poetry is also at times an ineluctable wordlessness, like the impulse to sip a glass of ice water, a reflex. Like jarring a sore bone, you wince, and the poem gasps out of you.
- Phoebe Wang, in conversation with James Lindsay over at Open Book. You can read the whole thing here.