Interview with Brenda Iijima


Interview with Brenda Iijima


Brenda Iijima


An interview with poet Brenda Iijima at The New Nature Writing, Lake Forest College's Literary Festival 2012.


Catherine Masek




Lake Forest Literary Festival (Lake Forest College)








Catherine Masek


Brenda Iijima


Harmon Lounge, Carnegie Hall, Lake Forest College


LFC Lit Fest Weds Feb. 29th, 2pm

Author Interview:  Brenda Iijima

Our Biography as Humans on Earth

CM:  So here I am with Brenda Iijima, who has been gracious enough to let me ask her my Literary Festival author interview questions.  They’re broken down:  the first three-quarters are general writing and philosophy questions and the last three questions are more specific to the book my class (Environmental Writing) read, which is revv. you’ll-ution.

BI:  Okay.

CM:  Some of these may reiterate some of the questions that came up in the informal discussions or in other settings.  So if you wouldn’t mind repeating or paraphrasing those, that would be great.  So the first one is, what brought you to writing in general and then environmental writing in particular? 

BI: I mean, writing in general was forced upon me by my culture.  As soon as I was a young child, I was to be introduced to letters and numbers, so it became a very normative experience to write.  But the act of actually transforming myself into a kind of serious, someone who became a practitioner, I guess stepping outside of using language—well, did I ever do that?  Step out of language as a communicative tool?  I’m not even sure—I don’t think I’ve, I’ve just enhanced the impact and concentration of what my language, what the language that I put together does, maybe.  But yeah, I think that if you’re human, you’re kind of predisposed to language or brought into that continuum.  I actually, you know, one of my crazy, like I thought if I got mad enough at my parents I would just decide not to speak for a while.  I never successfully did that because I was too passionate and probably that would be the hardest thing, not to speak for a time.  Just simply be mute like I said. But I’d still be using some form of language such as gesture and body language.  I think we really don’t give enough attention or acknowledgement regarding how much the body speaks, how can I say, besides the actual language, meaning English or whatever language we use.

CM:  So non-verbal.

BI: Mhm.  Well, even guttural, like yelping.  We make sounds that don’t come out of the dictionary.  I was just reading a very interesting article yesterday that kind of helped me understand one reason why I might have used all those the questions in the beginning of If Not Metamorphic, which you didn’t read, but others did.  First lingual studies suggested that adolescent girls might be stupid or shy or have a lack of confidence hence they would manipulate the vernacular in a way that sounded kind of like different ? in the case of uptake.  Modulating each sentence with a question at the end. Or reusing a lot of fillers like like, but actually linguists now are realizing that adolescent girls are actually way ahead of the curve sociologically and use those mechanisms in speech and change the modality of speech very sophisticatedly and it’s actually very powerful.  It changes the power dynamic of how directions are given and how people make commands and how people disseminate information.  So I was curious to learn that.  I forgot what I was basing all of this on.

CM:  What brought you to writing.  So writing is a part of the normative enculturation to being human.  What brought you to the art form of poetry? You started out as a painter.

BI:  Yeah, well, it’s bizarre, you know.  Wouldn’t humans be satisfied merely to communicate using language in communication with other humans like “Hi.  How are you?”  Why do I then have to write a poem?  Why?  Because there’s this excess that we have in terms of feeling, desire, passion, urge that doesn’t get moderated by those exchanges we make in communication with other humans in the standardized way and so I think the impetus arises out of that need to extend communicative possibilities and not just simply acquiesce or succumb to the ones that were presented to us at birth.  Though poetry is already a form that existed prior to my existence, I feel that I’m extending it in some way because I’m pushing the way a poem can be made.  It’s just so striking that there is uniqueness even though the idea of the individual is pretty much shot and we’ve moved beyond this.  We’re very much communal, very much interrelated and yet a lone individual can make a unique document that then is addressed to other unique individuals who then speak out and respond in interesting ways.

CM:  And the second part of that question is, what brought you to environmental writing in particular?  Or is that an obsolete differentiation for you?

BI: I don’t even think of myself as an ecowriter per say because I feel like I don’t want to be categorized in that way, but I did, one fine day, I just said to myself, “Wow, there has not been a book of essay published by contemporary poets remarking on environmental ethics” and I could very well do that.  So it seemed like a timely project and I wanted to hear what my peers had to say and actually, the ecolanguage Reader is for the most part, but not entirely, comprised of people who don’t consider themselves necessarily ecopoets.  I felt that anyone should be able to remark on their relationship to language and the environment. So it was very interesting to hear what people who don’t necessarily consider themselves to be focused on ecological issues came up with, what kinds of responses they had. But in the meantime, since I’ve been put in this situation where I’m being considered an ecopoet, it’s also wonderful and it’s a great time to speak about different environmental scenarios and situations that are pressing.  You know.  It’s thrilling to speak to those aspects of reality.

CM:  Great, thank you.  I’ll follow-up with my second question, which is couple-parted.  The first part is, how would you classify your writing style as a writer?  Do you have a single or a multifaceted voice?  And how would you define your voice as a writer?

BI:  I think I move, I really do conscientiously focus on not replicating myself in the sense that pushing the form is very important to me.  So I could continue writing in the mode of this book revv. you’ll –ution with these discrete poems that are kind of agitated poems that deal with certain environmental themes or I could then put together a new semblance of terms that need to be agonized over and challenged and there needs to be that struggle and then find that, awaken into a whole new, well not whole new, but uncover new modalities that would be communicative and act as social documentation with a different emphasis on social reality.  So yeah, while I have written poems by simply sitting at a desk and letting my imagination flow, and that’s fabulous, I do love intertexuality and I love referring to other thinkers and building a text from multiple texts and responding in that way.  So in that way I feel the work is in some degree polyvocal. I feel humans can make so many different speech acts. I’m very interested in what is considered academic writing.  What is considered the vernacular? How does race, class and gender figured into that?  Do you sound like a smart person, do you sound like someone who is educated, do you sound like a scientist?  And I think all that can be manipulated and is manipulative.  I shape-shift between these possibilities and try to teach myself different modes.  I like to work through different speech acts and see what they yield.  I mean, three years ago when I embarked on this project to work within dance or research movement and started to use the word dancer, all of a sudden I had all these great social contacts with people.  It refreshed my social network, my socialability.  I suddenly wasn’t just talking to poets, I was talking with research movement people and like, yeah, how gratifying, instantly, to have a whole new friend base and collaborative base.  My poet friends were like, “what is going on?  So you’re leaving us?”  “No, I’m just using dance as a means to gather language, over here, doing this, this and this.  It’s amazing how coterie oriented poetry is, or any art form is, and how we rely on this very deliberate codification, like “I am a poet of the New York School tradition and I write lyric poet poems that are mainly about blank, and my peer group is blank blank blank and we only go to each other’s readings.”  That makes me cagey.

CM:  All right.  I’ll follow up with question three.  Do you differentiate between writing and environmental writing?  What’s the difference to you?  And do you view yourself as an environmental writer or a writer who happens to write on environmental topics? 

BI: Writing and environmental writing?  Well, like I think I said ten times already at Lake Forest College, I can’t imagine someone not being connected to the environment so we’re all remarking on, whether we’re conscious or not, or whether it’s a political statement, we’re remarking on our environmental materiality, our interrelationship with the biome, where we live, and our bodies find themselves: physiognomy, psychology.  We eat, we forge for food, we work together, all those activities are situated within biome, within environment.  So to express oneself anyhow, anyway, is always already an environmental act.  You know, just the material that, the materiality of writing.  You’ve got ink.  You’ve got paper.  You’ve got your brain working.  It’s very physical.  Yeah, I just feel sad that people bracket off into different categories so fiercely when I think there could be so many other amazing confluences happening.  And it’s just such a chore at this point to bring people together, but it’s perfectly possible and it does happen occasionally, where different thinkers get together.  What was the second part of that question?  Writing, environmental writing?

CM:  Do you view yourself as an environmental writer or a writer that writes on environmental topics? 

BI: I try to, the more challenging part, is I try to construe an ethics, an environmental ethics and that’s very hard because then I trap myself into a set of practices that I need to abide by somewhat and you know, not that they’re rules, they are practices.  I think there are things we can do to make our world just a little more feasible, to stall disaster.  I don’t know if it’s going to happen, but this is our biography as humans on earth.  We should try our best not to poison it totally and destroy all other animals, for example.  Maybe it’s going to happen, but I’m trying to personally not participate in those dynamics. 

CM:  Great, then onto number four.  What does environmental writing mean to you?  What is an environment?  The Environment, with a capital E?  Is there a difference between environmental writing and nature writing, and what is your environment?

BI:  (photocopier interruption) The environment is the mechanical reproduction of sounds.  Okay, (looking at sheet) what does environment, oh I was going to read, what does viral writing mean to you?

CM:  That would be an interesting interpretation.

BI: What does environmental writing mean to me?  Well, I mean, I love to see great intelligence.  I love intelligence, human intelligence, animal intelligence.  Um, intelligence of trees, and I guess intelligence is the ability to cohabitate in a location i.e. a biome, so all the different mechanisms that arise in order to intelligently exist is enthralling and interesting and I’m passionate about that.  I think life is such a dynamic, thrilling, perplexing, odd, wondrous presence-filled reality and experience.  To simply be alive and to comment on that.  I think if you’re alive you’re participating in these terms that you’ve delineated here.  Is there a difference between environmental writing and nature writing?  I mean there’s a whole history I could get into.  I think John can speak perfectly and clearly about the histories of these modes of writing.  I understand that exists and I find that interesting. If you want to call it nature or environment or the end of nature and the end of the wild, or you want to call it the beginning of the environment the beginning of the biome, both are just transferring terms in a way. I think life on earth, life, the reality of the globe, of globes, of the universe, it’s very chaotic and there’s no way to hold everything, the simultaneities and the layers and densities of  time and space in one’s brain.  We are actualizing these realities simply by functioning as a living, breathing entity.  The romantic era, romantic lyrical modes: of course it is political to write about the sublimity of nature and who has/had free time to take lovely walks along the lake and respond, swooning.  What is my environment?   That’s such a possessive question.  What is, I’m not really sure because I don’t really know where I end as a body and where I begin and I don’t really know if there are levels of my being that are being projected unbeknownst to me.  There could be qualities, you know, certain animals can see x-ray vision, maybe people aren’t perceiving things.  We’re perceiving things about each other, our environment, that other’s can’t perceive.  So there’s such a multilayered dimensional reality that’s going on that I really can’t speak of quite, only with my limited capacity, which I’m trying very hard to expand; to open out of my own stone age and develop slightly.  Okay, I’ll try to make these statements less convoluted.  Now I’m going to speak clearly.

CM:  It’s always wonderful to hear the thought process come out.

BI:  But I’ve heard myself speak too long today.  So I’m starting to feel alienated by my voice.  Like, is this English?

CM:  Well, then I’ll proceed to the next one quickly.  Five is, what is the purpose of writing to or for you and the purpose of environmental writing?

BI:  Purpose.  Porpoise?  Purpose.  Purpose, goal, um.  Well, you know, unintended consequences are very interesting.  I think, I might have a goal and passionate edicts and precepts and conditions for writing that may be matched by the social aspect that encounters that writing.  It may match that or it may reveal something completely different.  It’s reactive text, so I think the worst scenario is if you wrote something and it just sat there and no one had anything to say and couldn’t react to it at all.  It would be missing others.  I think there is so much influence and gesture and awareness and we’re in the present and there’s so much going on and we have these experiences of reading texts which is really taking another work into the body because you’re thinking it.  It’s in your brain.  But I don’t think we have all the time to say “oh your work means this to me” or “my work means this to me” but already something happened.  So it’s already occurring, an exchange, you already picked up the book.  You have been changed from that experience because it’s a vibrant document that has suggested, is suggestive, so you’re going to respond in kind.

CM:  Okay, great.  I’ll move on to number six.  Do you write with an articulated writing philosophy—either an internal or externally articulated one—and if so, what is it?  Also, how do you approach the page when you come to writing a piece?  Is it intention or openness? 

BI:  I don’t think I have an articulated writing philosophy but I’m very interested in theoretical construct and thinking through ideas theoretically and then challenging my own, you know, clichés I might already created in order to make it easier to understand, so that’s always changing, that’s always in flux.  I am trying to constantly question what those terms might be and then see if there’s, validity’s not the right word, but a salience that still applies.  The page is fabulous, it’s a template, but it’s not the only way to work, I think.  We have body text, we have expressions that come out of our mouths that are like texts in the air so I’m not beholden to words on paper per se.  Certainly now that I’m dancing and as you can see from these photographs there’s a certain poetic contention with the photographs but also we’re also demonstrating a sort of sociological approach to meaning making.  We’re involved in an experiment, my mother, Tammy and I and the stuffed animal in the municipal dump.  So, not only am I using words but I’m involved with environments, I’m involved with other life forms that very much negotiate, direct and manipulate what I’m doing.

CM:  So you also enjoy incorporating the visual and the kinesthetic communication in your poetry?

BI: Yeah, I try to keep those dimensions open.  I try to avail myself to that.  I even like to see this book on the table with the cookies, with the napkins.  And then you have a half-eaten pretzel and a rubber band and suddenly you can see the book is a part of an environment it wasn’t even intended to participate in.  My mother (on cover of book) seems to be reaching for your knapsack.  She’s reaching for a stuffed animal monkey, but that can bring new ideas and revelations about placement and proximity and etc, etc.

CM:  Awesome.  Onto number seven.  Do you agree or disagree with the following statements:  writing is communication—

BI:  Yes.

CM:  Writing is self-expression—

BI: Yes.

CM: Writing is art—

BI: Yes

CM: Writing is a tool—

BI:  Yes.

CM:  Why?  Then, are any of these statements mutually exclusive or mutually inclusive?  Reflect on the interdependency of those.

BI: Sometimes they’re all of the above; sometimes they’re of one or the other and possibly additional things, additional processes.  Like Ed Roberson, I’m very interesting in systems, understanding systems, interrelating systems.  So, you know, writing participates in many systems, infinite amount, well maybe not infinite, but a lot of different systems.

CM:  Okay then, onto number eight.  Should an author write about what they know or about their own environment?  Then, how would you define knowledge for a writer?  Is it research and study or personal experience?

BI:  I think working through experiential data helps a lot because we can never be sure what we know and a lot can be illusion, delusion, misinformation and pre-disposed ideological construct, etc, etc.  But I think if you’re working through experiential data, your body is going to remark in different ways that bring about, that make certain relations clear and make for a deep richness of term.  And you can do that by engaging deeply with a new set of terms and take time to unravel what those new conditions are, new systems or what you know can constantly be changing.  So I don’t think you have to write about your childhood your whole life or write about your mother and father or write about your love life, certainly nothing like that.  We know so many things we don’t give ourselves credit for.  To be clear, to be open to the way we all think.  Thinking as an ontology.

CM:  I know you have pursued areas that are new to you.  You pioneer into disciplines that you perhaps weren’t formally educated in.  I find how you take that into your work very intriguing.  But, onto number nine.  If you had one piece of advice for aspiring environmental writers, a take-home message, what would it be?

BI:  I would say, read as much as you can, and try to locate people who are really interesting and try to reach out to them in some form.  Try to push the limits of your own thinking and critically analyze constantly.  Actually write.  Sit down and write.  Critique yourself.  Is it interesting, what are you writing about?  Ask yourself these same questions.  What does it mean?  What could it mean?  What can you mean?  What are you capable of meaning?  What meanings can you make?  How is that socially relevant, or not?  Being interesting to yourself is surely a significant goal.  If you’re boring yourself then…

CM:  That’s probably your best line.  Is that part of how you keep yourself engaged in your work, that constant perusal of new dimensions and new perspective?  How do you keep your writing fresh to you?

BI:  Yeah, I mean, all this, there’s so much to be open to and respond to and—I think the word explore is a dubious term, but without deconstructing that right now—you could put five books in front of yourself that don’t seem related and then find links and from that a body of writing could develop where you have these sparks of interest and this is where you want to position your thinking.  It’s like, “I’m now for the next several months going to be thinking about these complexities and where am I going to be at?” That’s a great journey.  You don’t have to go anywhere physically, well maybe you do, but it doesn’t necessarily cost you any money.  All you have to do is think, actually think.  Then compare it with others and share it with others and then see what they think.

CM:  This has come up a lot, but you’re often mentioning the importance of discourse and conversations.  How do you integrate that into your writing?

BI:  Well I think as humans, that’s one thing we’ve done very successfully is put our ideas in a readily accessible form.  If can get into the library, if you can access these books, you can actually trace an idea through time and if you have enough time, you can get a familiar stance on an certain idea or field of interest, field of research.  So I’ve integrated myself as a poet and I did not spend any money to become a poet.  Obviously I bought books and it costs money to go to certain places with an admission fee, but I’m saying, you know, no one had to, I successfully, I think, taught myself to be a poet.  It was not that challenging and that gives me confidence to think I can teach myself to be a farmer or I could teach myself to--I mean there are certain, I learned as a painter, there are certain technical familiarities, and you have to be technically introduced.  So with painting it’s very technical and there’s a scientific aspect to mixing paint and if I were to claim I was a doctor I’d have to learn technical aspects of that practice, but it’s perfectly conceivable.  So I may not, because it’s kind of dabbling here and there, I could ask myself “am I really getting deep enough into these fields of reference?”  That’s a point to contend.  But what I’m trying to do is create a more integrated fabric of thinking so that one person can take this and run with it elsewhere and introduce other layers of understanding.  I think there are some forms of writing that just foreclose additional possibilities.  They are what they are, and they’re unapologetic about that, and they want to stay within a very distinct, almost doctrine, of meaning.   I love the gurgling, you know, fluctuating, bubbling, transitory possibilities of the mind and thinking.

CM: Thank you.  The last few questions are more specific to your book, revv. you’ll –ution, that we read in the Environmental Writing class.  So the first question about the book is, as the author, are you writing to a particular audience?  Who is your intended or expected audience for your work, and do you view your work as accessible, and is that a desirable trait in writing?

BI:  I’m not writing to a particular audience, but it sure is nice when my peer groups read my work, and it feels kind of intimate and special and important if fellow poets my age who are, for lack of a better word, experimental are reading my work.  But that said, it’s thrilling if anyone has said to me they read my work.  It’s on an equal plateau and I’m as enthused as it’s as meaningful whoever reads the work.  I don’t know if it’s universally accessible.  Some things just seem opaque but really aren’t, and some things don’t seem opaque and, you know, the reverse.  I like challenging language. I love syntactical flare.  I love intricacy.  I love sonic pattern, rhythms, you know, as rich as possible.  Meaning making can be, I just think there are so many modes and qualities to writing.  Sometimes if you mute out the meanings, the literal meanings, you get amazing music, so there are so many operative levels.  I don’t need a rarified audience.  The certain canon formation, the people who are making the canons, whoever they are, reading the work and giving their stamp of approval.  I hope that the work is read generally.  It’s just hard because poetry in our society, people don’t pick up a book of poetry as readily as they would a novel, which I think is so unfortunate because it can do such interesting things for your brain.

CM: The second question of this last bit. revv. you’ll –ution is not your first or your most recent book.  How does it fit into your career as a writer, your writing arch or journey?  And then, does it reflect you as a writer now, today, in part or whole?

BI: Yeah, well.  My chronology as a writer has been fitful.  Actually, this publisher wanted to publish another manuscript, but I didn’t know who he was at the time.  He approached me after a reading and he wanted to publish that work and I was just taken off-guard. I had this other manuscript, revv. you’ll –ution, which didn’t have a name. I don’t know exactly what my reservation was about giving him that other manuscript— which is still unpublished—but I completed this manuscript knowing he would publish it.  I thought it was very interesting that he was going to publish a book of mine that he hadn’t read.  So it was a leap of faith and it was interesting to see how I would write under that pressure and what would be developed.  And what would that mean?  How would it fit in?  All these books are departures from each other, but they also have an underling familiarity because though I think I can change so much, I think I have some baseline qualities of the way I work in the world.  I’m so thrilled that I had this opportunity to write this book, to read from it, to share it with others.  I’m thrilled my mother got involved, my friend Tammy.  It touches upon so many physical and mental realities I’m still fascinated by and find interesting.  I think it’s a compelling book, thankfully, otherwise I’d have to find all the copies and dispose of them and that’d be even.

CM:  It certainly generates conversation.  It did in our class.

BI: What did your class think about the pictures?  Josh was saying that some people thought the photos, especially those of Lynn Burdick’s abduction and our staging of a drama (movement research—whatever we can call this confluence of performance, language and memory) to remember her, were controversial?

CM:  There were definitely mixed thoughts about them, both the quality and the fuzzy, amateurish impression of some of the pictures, as well as the thought of the absurdity of putting stuffed animals in the woods and studying them, or the thought—there was one opinion—that it didn’t feel right that you were reenacting a woman’s story in a way that looked like you were just running around a field. That static cotton movement, they weren’t sure how appropriate it was to take someone else’s story that way.  But I know—you talked about this in the informal panel discussion—how very much it was ingrained in you, and it was really your exploration and your coming to terms with your relationship to those events.  I found that very interesting, and I wish they’d be there to hear it. 

BI:  You know we couldn’t replicate what happened to Lynn.  That’s where the real mystery, horror, sadness is.  You know, she’s gone.  She can’t speak about that violence so all we have left is this feeling in our bodies.  And what would that look like?  It would look like something different every day, or depending on whom I brought to the site, or who went there and who would be willing to open up and be vulnerable to the set of gestures that could possibly speak to this violence that we knew, didn’t know. I was an adolescent, so there is a precognitive aspect of this violence.  I mean I was aware of violence, but then I realize as an adult it’s still as peculiar, disturbing, gripping and I’m still in no better place to explain to myself or reconcile those feelings, they can’t be reconciled —her disappearance and those other women’s disappearances, so in a way we are left with a mockery, because life feels processional, time feels so. But time returns, multiple timeframes are always active.  My memory of her is a swooping around the present and I had to validate how the mind works to reinsert a past event into the present continually.  So we do, if anything we make a mockery of our own sadness.  We mock, I don’t even know if that’s the right term, but we put ourselves in that vulnerable position because our emotions are so unmediated and undetermined and we can only find fitful gestures to represent that.  We’re not, what’s the word when you disrespect the dead?  When you disrespect the dead.  It’s not sacrilege.  Anyway. It so much becomes about us as about her.  We’re totally in the force field with her though this violence didn’t happen to us per say, we felt it as a violence.   Like it created fear and psychological turmoil for us as young girls.   Like “that could have been us” or “where did she go?”  Why didn’t anyone explain this to us?  Why is she still a missing person?  There’s so many unexplained and unfinished, unsolved, aspects of her disappearance for us.

CM:  I know for me personally, I’ve understood the book a lot more after—not only after going back and reading it again—but also from meeting you and talking to you and listening to you.  It’s given me a lot of context about where you were coming from.  I’m just wondering if that sort of context or understanding of approach or intention—that’s not quite the right word—is something that is needed or important in a book?  Or if a work can stand on its own, and people can work to figure out what those layers of context and intention?

BI:  That’s what’s so amazing about reading.  Contexts come and go.  I might have come here or I might not have.  You know, I think we’re very charismatic as humans.  I’m not making a sales pitch for the philosophical construct of the book, but this is something I care so deeply about that it’s inevitable that you’ll see this passion and I’m very aware of this and I wonder what this does to the work itself.  Now the book is no longer an independent entity.  You’re now seeing me in the book, which you didn’t see before.  But that’s just how it is.  As we humans document, there is a charismatic person somewhere or a very uncharismatic person.  I mean, I could have said something that made you feel absolutely horrible, you know, would that change the dimension of those photos?  I wonder.

CM:  It would change the interpretation.  The photos would be the same, in the technical sense.

BI:  I actually have a very sophisticated, great camera, but I chose to use a really cheap camera that, to use Josh’s word, didn’t over-fetishize the photography. I was focused more on proximity like how did they feel as non-actors as I was getting closer with the camera which was like a violence, the camera as gun, as I recorded this very delicate exchange.  My friend Tammy hadn’t seen my mother for twenty years and my mother was holding an ax at her and she was actually scared.  So we were all creating these different levels of fear and those really dramatic aspects where they first approach each other with this hatchet, I chose not to make that a spectacle as much as when they’re already getting looser about it.  My mother was like “is this over?”  “No, Mom. Gotta do a little more,” so I actually make the photos bigger as they became more engaged with their role or their mode of acting this out or engaging with it.  So at this point (pointing at early photo of sequence in book) they’re probably the least familiar.  And there are so many shots missing, like the missing person, like the missing narrative.  So you’re seeing how memory records an event or a body lodges information.  I thought the cropping techniques also create a different body dynamic.  Why would anyone have a photo without the head?  But why would someone abduct someone?  

CM:  That is a question.

BI:  But that was off topic, yeah.

CM:  No, that was great.  That you dug into the work like that.  Well, last question.

BI:  That thing still has memory?

CM:  Yes, it has ten hours on it, lucky for me.  But the last question is, would you comment briefly on the work and writing you are doing and pursuing today?  You’ve already talked today about the ecopoetics, but your most recent works, what’s engaging you now?

BI: Well for the last three years I’ve been choreographing and dancing with others, or not, what I’m calling spasmodic dances.  It’s just an effort to understand where the dances jump out of normative expression.  So, yes a set of gestures that make us comfortable as humans, how we sit, how we eat, how we behave with each other and just, if you’re slightly out of that, like the uncanny, thinking about the uncanny, but also thinking about trespassing and thinking of where you’re body’s supposed to be in time and space.  But the main themes of this work, so wait, I should first say I’m using the dance as a means to generate language, so as my body’s in motion I’m conscientiously thinking about what language is arriving to me, which is quite different than just sitting down and thinking.  Cause I’m thinking while in motion, which is challenging.  I’m thinking of toxicity in the environment and toxicity in the body I’m thinking about the wild, that contested term, so I’m dancing in forests but basically areas where humans don’t tend to go and understanding what that marker, the wild, could mean.  Then also trying to find agency in the female body.  So creating definitions of what it can be to a heroine, a hero as female, and there’re some sub-themes to that.  And then, well, I have my quasi-encyclopedia of animals used as surrogates for humans, which I need to find a publisher for and then the poems I’m going to read today are from a different manuscript that is, to some degree, my talking to my deceased friend across the event horizon.  I won’t get into that.  I just started a new conceptual writing format that I’m calling hyper essay.  Because when you’re stating that you’ve written an essay, it seems you are challenging certain ideas and you’re laying out a thesis, but these are much more convoluted.  So I’ll read poems and those hyper essays today and test them out.  I’ve never read them to anyone except myself.  And yeah, publishing other people’s works and being attentive, trying to respond to other people’s work and trying to encourage people to get their work out there if they’re not do so.  Etc. etc.

CM:  Well, I’m certainly looking forward to the reading.  This was great.  Thank you very much for sitting and talking, for letting me interrogate you.  I appreciate it and thank you for coming to the Festival here.

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Catherine Masek, “Interview with Brenda Iijima,” Digital Collections - Lake Forest College, accessed June 24, 2019,

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