Today’s conversation, with poet and multimedia artist Diana Khoi Nguyen, is not to be missed. Both of her books, Ghost Of and Root Fractures, engage with and are shaped by her brother’s absence and the family silence surrounding it. Two years before his suicide, her brother quietly removed the family photos from their frames on the walls, carefully cut himself out of each photo, and returned them to their frames without him. The redacted photos remained on the walls like this for years before and after his death. In different ways, Diana’s books write into and around the empty space that her brother left in these images, and in her family. We talk about her process of radical eulogy, the ways her work outside of language informs her poetry, how she uses photography—redacted by her own sibling—as a form and constraint in her work, about ghosts and hauntings, rivers and bees, about the Vietnamese declarative and the English subjunctive, about alternate lives not-lived and future ones that might be.
One of the topics we cover today is how Diana constructed and crafted Root Fractures as a book, distilling a manuscript of over 200 pages of words and images to a book half that size. For the bonus audio archive Diana discusses this further and reads from some of the body-shaped poems that didn’t make it into the final manuscript, and yet were part of it coming into being. To learn more about how to subscribe to the bonus audio and the other potential benefits of joining the Between the Covers community as a listener-supporter head over to the show’s Patreon page.
Finally, here is today’s Bookshop with not only Diana’s books but many of the books mentioned today. Everyone from Eliot Weinberger and Jenny Erpenbeck to Bhanu Kapil and Victoria Chang.