“I’m a very visual thinker even when I write. So it helps me to infuse my brain with visual art. I love visiting museums (especially on their free days), and writing ekphrasis is a great method for generating new work, since I’m not just relying on what’s in my own limited brain. Paintings, sculptures, installations, anything works for me. I try to read the artist’s statement to get a sense of their process and what larger conversations they are engaging with. I recently saw a video installation by Carolina Caycedo titled ‘Apariciones / Apparitions,’ which has really stuck with me for various reasons, and I’ve wrestled with it in ekphrasis for a few months now. Not because I’m stuck or blocked, but because the video raises so many complex questions!
Another thing I like to do is find one theme in my previous writing that still has juice, that feels like it hasn’t been fully explored yet, and follow it into the rabbit hole. In a way, my second collection came about because of this method. I took one phrase from a poem in my first book, ‘cowboy theme park,’ and started collecting everything I could that seemed related to that idea. It was like finding a loose thread, tugging, and instead of everything unraveling, discovering that it was tied to a very interesting monster.”
—Kenji C. Liu, author of Monsters I Have Been (Alice James Books, 2019)