Q&A with Christy Tan

Christy Tan - Suburban Review Issue #14 Contributor

CHRISTY TAN is a settler/migrant living on unceded land in Birraranga/Narrm, originally from Malaysia, via so-called Perth.
Her poem ‘excess excretion’ appears in The Suburban Review #14: DETRITUS.
Our Co-deputy Editor, Dinu Kumarasinghe, interviews Christy.
What makes poetry excessive and what makes it plain?
It’s usually encouraged that writing be succinct and say more with less. I liked the idea of a poem that just unapologetically oozed like diarrhoea and basked in revealing all its gory grossness. The excess felt vulnerable and uninhibited like a stream of consciousness in the body instead of the mind. Simultaneously, I wanted to create a sense of blockage like a clogged drain filled with perpetual hairy thoughts.
Your poem has a physicality to it, both in how your words feel to be read and the images they create. How do you invoke the sense of touch when writing poetry?
I wanted the poem to be textured and overflowing with a range of senses, similar to the experience of flipping through a children’s touch and feel book. I think language has its own physicality that is separate from the body but, in this poem specifically, I did want to incorporate parts of the human body in conjuring excess imagery. I specifically crafted images that were polarising and vivid to provoke physical discomfort. I wanted the reaction of the reader to be immediately visceral and confronting.
Your poem makes bodily and cultural excess godly—is decarbonated Fanta profound, or is religion/spirituality trash? Are we mistaken to see them as mutually exclusive?
I think under late-stage capitalism, people are becoming more alienated from society and atomised. Instead of religion being the opiate of the people, we are finding spiritual fulfilment through consumerism in a very cannibalistic way. If God is dead then do we become God? Is nothing sacred anymore or is everything?
When writing poetry, do you draw on images you’ve already seen or create new ones?
I think what’s exciting about poetry is that it has the power to warp or invert your perspective. Suddenly the strange and unconventional can be distilled from the mundane and that can be a catalyst for challenging people’s conceptions of what is ordinary. Nothing is actually ordinary, we’ve just become desensitised to everything and grown so accustomed to it all that we don’t find it fascinating anymore. We’ve lost that child-like sense of awe and wonder. I like to think of poetry as a way to access that pure state of mind and create new images in a way that plays with people’s expectations and breaks with familiarity. New images can wake us up and shatter illusions, they can force us to interrogate our perceived realities.