Thuy On is an arts journalist, editor, critic, and poet. She’s currently Reviews Editor and writer for online publication, ArtsHub. Turbulence was her debut collection of poetry and her next collection Decadence will be published later this year by UWA Publishing.
Turbulence was your first collection of poetry published in 2020 and your next work will be published later this year by UWA Publishing – how has this experience been for you?
Unfortunately Turbulence was published right at the start of the pandemic so everything I had planned for it: the launch, the events at book festivals, bookshops and libraries had to be cancelled because of lockdowns in Melbourne. With the publication of Decadence I’m hoping that everything will be well and truly open again so I can talk about and even read a couple of poems from it to a live audience not mediated by a screen.
What is one thing that you feel will entice readers about your forthcoming poetry collection?
I wrote Decadence to appeal to lovers of words: bibliophiles and writers. It’s a book that breaks down the moving parts of language and it’s playful and satirical, but like all my poetry, it’s provoked by the heat of passion and not regulated by cold formalism.
As an arts journalist who is the Reviews Editor of ArtsHub and who has been published in The Age/SMH, The Australian, The Guardian, Sydney Review of Books, The Big Issue and Australian Book Review, how do you find time to write poetry?
Like many writers I fit it in whenever I can, in the margins of my days. But when it comes to poetry, I am a fast writer. I don’t spend days working on the one poem, agonising about a line break or a syllable. I know roughly what I want to say and then I play around with the concept and image. The very best poems I have written have been done in the space of half an hour.
Has poetry always been a part of your life?
No, I’m known primarily as a literary/arts critic as I’ve been doing that for over 20 years. I first dabbled in poems about 15 years ago but I was never very serious about it. It took the death of my marriage to regenerate an interest in the craft. All of a sudden I felt I had something urgent to say and in a medium that best suited my personality (I am impatient and impulsive so I can never write something as long and time-consuming as a novel).
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I wrote about love and loss in both Turbulence and Decadence because for me, and I think everyone else, these two are evergreen topics that affect us all and that’s where I drew a lot of inspiration from. In both collections, I also explored my interest in language, even and especially drilling down to the minutiae of punctuation, and imbuing the semicolon, for instance, with emotional resonance.
As a writer from Melbourne, how would you describe the Victorian literary landscape?
Melbourne is rightly hailed as one of UNESCO’s city of literature, an acknowledgment that pays respect to its breadth and depth of commitment to writers, literary organisations, publishers and bookshops. As a lover of all things books and having worked in and around the arts for most of my life, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.
Which Victorian poets have influenced you throughout your career?
I’d like to pay my respects to the great, and recently departed Jordie Albiston. She was the one who edited Turbulence. I was utterly awe-struck by her, this bastion of Australian poetry when we first met. But she was so kind to me, a fledgling poet. She took the manuscript of Turbulence and bonsaied it, trimmed it and made it elegant. She gave me tips on how to write (‘read aloud your work and see where the emphasis falls, where the music lies). I am forever grateful to her.
And lastly, which Australia poetry collections do you recommend?
Too many but I’ll name five recent ones: Trigger Warning by Maria Takolander, How Decent Folk Behave by Maxine Beneba Clarke, Human Looking by Andy Jackson, A Thousand Crimson Blooms by Eileen Chong and Fish Work by Caitlin Maling.
Thuy On's first collection of poetry, Turbulence, is available to purchase.