Interview with Anhvu Buchanan
Author of The Disordered
By Kallie Falandays
Your book, The Disordered (sunnyoutside) starts with the lines "This is my hand clutching the razor blade slic-/ing off my left ear," and ends with the lines, " Did/ I ever tell you matches and goodnight, honey and/ charcoal? Hello sweet tail, where did we go today?" How would you describe what the middle of the book is like?
Wandering through mazes and mirrors with your eyes taped open holding nothing but a cardboard suitcase.
How did The Disordered come about?
The Disordered was actually my thesis for graduate school. During my time working on my MFA the amazing poet/teacher Truong Tran gave me the best advice I could've asked for. He told me to go against the grain and avoid writing about the things everyone else expected me to write about at the time. I chose to go back to something I was very interested in which was Psychology which I majored at Virginia Tech. I kind've found my way back into the DSM-IV which is the manual used to diagnose psychological disorders. I thought it might be interesting to see if I could take a really scientific practical text and transform it somehow into a poetic text. Three years later, The Disordered came to life.
What did you do the first five minutes after you heard you were going to be published?
It probably took me a full day to really process it. It had been something I had been waiting so long for my whole life really, but three years of rejection and being a Book Contest Finalist took its toll on me. So when I got the letter from sunnyoutside press I couldn't believe it. It didn't seem real. I didn't want to believe it because I didn't want to be let down again. The next day when it finally set in that it was going to be published, I definitely celebrated with some whiskey and good friends.
Flavorwire named your book one of the top 10 poetry books of the year. What was that like for you?
Oh wow, I was so honored and blown away. I still am. Thanks to Michael Siedlinger who actually tagged me and let me know because I probably would've never found out without him. It's so humbling to me the positive response the book has gotten. I spent so much time alone with these poems, I definitely was scared how the book/poems were going to be received especially with the subject matter. Things like the Flavorwire post and when a stranger sends me a nice message about the book made all the years of revising and rejection worth it in the end.
What is the nicest thing that anyone has said about your writing? (Who said it?)
It happened this past summer while on book tour. I did a reading of sorts at Farley's Book Store in New Hope, Pennsylvania. I was reading poems to strangers in front of the book store. A woman came up to me and I told her about the book and she said her son had ADHD and that she wanted me to read the poem I wrote about it. I read the poem and when I finished I looked up and she was crying and said it was beautiful and that she was going in right away to buy the book. She told me that for her that described her son perfectly. That was always my fear about the book which was how authentic the poems would feel for someone suffering from a psychological disorder. Anytime someone I know with a disorder tells me that I really captured their experience or how they feel is the biggest compliment anyone can give me about the poems.
How long did it take for your book to get published? How many places did you submit it to?
It took about 3 years. I sent it to every press, every first book contest, every open reading period imaginable. I came close a few times with the book being named a finalist in some book contests. But in the end I am so happy it got rejected all those years because it allowed the book to find the perfect home with sunnyoutside press. I have never met such a genius in publishing like David McNamara editor of sunnyoutside press. Him and Brian Mihok gave my manuscript so much thought and care. He let me be a part of the entire process including allowing me to choose the book cover which meant everything to me.
What was the first poem that you wrote for Disordered?
What are you currently working on?
I have a chapbook coming out sometime in the spring with Works on Paper Press called "Backhanded Compliments and Other Ways to Say I Love You". I've been working on the edits for that. I'm working on my next book which are Bromance Love poems to my all my Bromantical Heroes such as Paul Rudd, Kanye West, Ryan Gosling, etc.
Who are your top five favorite contemporary poets?
Bob Hicok, Amy Lawless, Gregory Sherl, Zachary Schomburg, Kanye West
My favorite line from your book is "I have turned my mother/ parts inside out/ why call it shambles when I can/ call it treasure/ I have fallen and there is no piano/ to pick me up." What is your favorite line and why?
My picnic marries your picnic and in the blankets we disappear.
Without looking at your book, can you repeat a whole poem by heart?
No, I can't remember to remember to remember to remember anything. My memory is awful.
What was the title of the last poem that you wrote?
Going the Distance
Where do you see yourself and your writing in 5 years?
In 5 years, I hope to have at least one more book out in the world. I'd really love for my book of bromance poems be a part of this world. I think poetry doesn't always have to be so serious and I'd love for there to be a collection of my bromance poems out there in the world making people laugh.
If you had to put a piece of furniture in your next poem, what would you put?
Without a doubt it would be a SOFA or maybe an End Table.
Finally, what is a day-in-the-life like for you?
Listening to Kanye West, Watching Netflix, and hoping I can find a way to another poem.