SR72 Contributor Interviews: Dorothy Chan

6 mins read


What is it about the genre or cross-genre you write in that interests you/draws you in?

I’m drawn to the immediacy and rawness of poetry. I like getting caught up in the moment and letting that spark take over in the writing.

How does this published piece fit in with the larger thematic concerns that you see in your overall work?

Both “Triple Sonnet of Botox, Massage Parlors, and Wild Animals” and “In the Jungle” are part of my full-length collection, Attack of the Fifty-Foot Centerfold (Spork Press, April 2018). In Attack of the Fifty-Foot Centerfold, I explore the sexualized and fetishized role of the Asian-American woman in society and in the media—what it’s like to be the product of immigrant parents; what it’s like growing up with American cultural references and of course, blending those references with what’s current in East Asian culture; and looking at the ways women are deemed as the “sex object,” and how Asian women are fetishized and exoticized when we really could subvert and avert all that by becoming the subject (and not only the “sex subject,” but the subject).

Women are so strong. Women are my biggest inspiration and capturing that powerful essence has always been the goal of my writing.

What are you influenced by?

I’m a lucky girl because some of the greatest poets in the world are my mentors: Norman Dubie, Barbara Hamby, David Kirby, and Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon. I love reading the work of my mentors extensively.

And here’s a list of things other than poetry that influence my work: food and drink (I’m a big fan of Korean BBQ, a bountiful sashimi plate with a generous side of uni sushi, the seafood my parents cook, a good bourbon, French cuisine, Ethiopian cuisine, custardy desserts, Hong Kong dim sum and street food, any type of spicy food—more spice!, etc.); visual art that extends from Raphael (really, no one painted babies more delicately than him) and Renaissance art to pop and contemporary art (I’ll forever be in love with the art of Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami, Hattie Stewart, and Yoshitomo Nara) to pinup (Vargas girls, Gil Elvgren, and Playboy: RIP Hef); fashion and runway (RIP Heatherette, The Blonds, Jeremy Scott, Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Jacobs, and Anna Sui, to name a few); my girl crushes (Devon Aoki, Vivienne Leigh, Naomi Campbell, Rihanna, Faye Dunaway before Mommie Dearest, but maybe just Faye Dunaway forever, Michelle Pfeiffer, etc.), and film (Chinatown, Gigi, Satoshi Kon films, ‘and 80s teen movies, for instance).

I was a lonely kid growing up, so I needed all of the above and more.

What does your typical writing schedule look like? What aspects of working do you look forward to? What aspects frustrate you?

I don’t necessarily have a set writing schedule. I write whenever I feel like it, which is most of the time. I like writing in noisy places: cafes, restaurants, bars—in the middle of a party, etc. I’m most productive between the hours of after lunch and after after hours. But again, I’m of the mentality of writing anytime, anywhere.

I most look forward to the moment when I pull out the “Notes” app on my phone. That’s when I know I’ve got the idea, and I must frantically jot it down before I forget it.

For fun, if you could pick one meal that matches the piece we published, what would it be and why?

Oh, wow. This is my favorite question ever, and we’re in for a luxurious and sexy meal. I mean, it really has to be that way because the combination of “Triple Sonnet of Botox, Massage Parlors, and Wild Animals” and “In the Jungle” is such a romp into the high life.

Appetizer: Tuna Tartare, and of course a delicious caviar with crème fraiche (I’ll also be tempted to order a dozen raw oysters).

Entrée: Lobster Wellington with a side of Parmesan Truffle Potatoes.

Dessert: A large platter of the following: Grapefruit Cake, French Vanilla Crème Brûlée, Rose-Flavored Macarons, Chinese Coconut Pudding, Lavender Ice Cream, Lychees, and Longan.

Wine Pairing: The Best Champagne, of course.

DOROTHY CHAN is the author of Attack of the Fifty-Foot Centerfold (Spork Press, forthcoming April 2018) and the chapbook Chinatown Sonnets (New Delta Review, 2017). She was a 2014 finalist for the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship, and her work has appeared in BlackbirdPlumeThe JournalSpillwayLittle Patuxent ReviewThe McNeese Review, Salt Hill Journal, and others. Chan is the Assistant Editor of The Southeast Review. Visit her website at