Jenny Wong is a writer, traveler, and occasional business analyst. Her favorite places to wander are Tokyo alleys, Singapore hawker centers, and Parisian cemeteries. She resides in Canada near the Rocky Mountains and tweets @jenwithwords.
You can read her poem Notes to Myself on Chore Day in the October 2022 issue of Pinhole Poetry.
Would you like to tell us a little bit more about your poem? For instance, how or why you wrote it, or perhaps provide some extra context?
The poem “Notes to Myself on Chore Day” began as a pile of leftovers from another list poem. I was originally doing a poetry collaboration with my writing buddy, Sylvia Santiago. We both went away, made some listy things individually, and then came together to see how our work could be put together.
Once our collaboration piece was done, I was left with these lines that weren’t used, but I loved and couldn’t quite let go of. Since I actually did write them on a Saturday chore day in August, I found they gave a fragmented glimpse of what was going on around me at the time. There was definitely some editing involved afterwards to shape everything into a new poem, but I’d say about 90% of the lines in “Notes to Myself on Chore Day” are rejected lines and the remaining 10% were new or heavily reworked lines. Quite often, there are snippets of sentences and phrases that I struggle to let go of. I’m a big believer in saving them off, even if they don’t work in the piece they were originally intended for. If I love them enough, there’s a good chance they will appear somewhere else.
Do you have a collection of poetry or even a single poem that acts as a touchstone or a lodestar?
While there are pieces or writers I return to, it kind of depends on what I’m working on. Maybe one day I will have that singular collection or poem that acts as my touchstone, but there is so much good work out there. I think I’m still in the phase where I ricochet around like a ball in a pinball machine, seeing what other people write, trying new techniques to improve my writing, finding new things that strike me.
How do you revise your work?
This is by no means original, but the biggest thing that helps me revise is reading out loud. It helps me hear the rhythm of the poem, and if I trip up or stumble on a word, then it’s a good indicator that I need to revisit that section. It also helps me uncover words that I’ve used more than once. For some reason, I never seem to notice these until I hear them. Sometimes I’ll end up using these pieces for readings or short films that I make, so being comfortable reading them out loud from the start just makes those other processes go smoother.