Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Kai Cheng Thom: 'Faith and science, to me, are one and the same when it comes to writing'

The poet and author answers eight questions from eight fellow authors.
​Kai Cheng Thom is the author of a place called No Homeland. (Jackson Ezra)

April is National Poetry Month and CBC Books is highlighting Canadian poets throughout the month!

Kai Cheng Thom is a writer and performer, and has a Master's degree in social work. Thom's collection of poems, a place called No Homeland, is an intimate journey through topics like gender, race and sexuality. Many of the poems emerge from her story of navigating identity as a Chinese Canadian transgender woman.

Below, Cheng Thom takes the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A and answers eight questions from eight fellow authors.

1. Zsuzsi Gartner asks, "How do faith and science intersect for you as a writer?"

Faith and science, to me, are one and the same when it comes to writing: They are a belief in the unshakeable cruelty and infinite possibility of being. I am a trans woman — a being that has literally, physically transformed from one thing into another. This is a magical process. It is also scientific. My body is the stuff of myth, and it is also a product of technology, a cyborg entity. It is from this place that I begin to write.

2. Peter Robinson asks, "What are your favourite and least favourite parts of the writing process?"

My favourite is that moment when inspiration and the pain of not writing finally overwhelm the fear and dread of writing and the words start to take form on the page. In that moment, the self and all its shadows are finally conquered. My least favourite part is the early editing stage, which to me feels a lot like going to the dentist.

3. Marina Endicott asks, "What is the line of prose or poetry that comes to you in the dark night of your soul?"

"No, I do not love you / Hate the word / That private tyranny within a public sound" — from Necropsy of Love by Al Purdy

4. Eden Robinson asks, "How long is your mull time before you write?" 

About five minutes. This often gets me into trouble.

5. Shilpi Somaya Gowda asks, "Do you ever get stuck creatively? If so, what do you do to get your creative juices flowing again?"

I chafe a bit at the idea of being creatively stuck, or of writer's block. I feel that if one really needs to write, because one is burning with the fire of having something urgent to say, then the writing will happen. If we have nothing urgent to say, it is probably better not to write. Productivity need not be the central principle around which we make art — that is the corrupting influence of capitalism, and that way lies bad or rather untruthful art.

6. Cherie Dimaline asks, "When do you feel the most confident and purposeful as a writer?"

I feel most confident when I am writing something new, when the idea has just struck and I am writing for nothing other than the pleasure and necessity of crystallizing my thoughts.

7. Sharon Bala asks, "What is one sentence (from fiction, non-fiction, poetry) that you wish you had written?"

"I am not wrong: Wrong is not my name

My name is my own my own my own" — from Poem About My Rights by June Jordan

8. Jen Sookfong Lee asks, "What's one thing you've written — scene, story or poem — that you hope your mother never reads?"

I once wrote a violent sex scene between a trans girl vigilante and the zombie ghost of a dead policeman. This was published in my first novel, which I hope to goodness my mother has never read.


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