October 31, 2017 orangeq2017

An Interview with 2017 Green House Poetry Prize Winner Mike Zhai

Love Poem” (winner of the 2017 Green House Poetry Prize), Bart to SFLunch Poem 6/23/14, and Dawn are poems by Mike Zhai published in the REVIVAL issue of Orange Quarterly (OQ 5), released in fall 2017 (on October 31).


What inspired you to write this poem?

I am interested in how the past lives within the present, the dead within the living, the unseen within the seen. In love one does not know who it is that loves; one is no longer oneself in some way, but more than oneself. Perhaps it is our dead ancestors who love through us, who choose whom we love, and teach us all the right and wrong ways to love them. I like to write about moments that connect our contemporary experience with the most ancient experiences of human beings, about the liminal moments between sleeping and waking, the surface and the deep.

What do you like about reading or performing your work for an audience? 

I am a rather unimaginative reader of my own work, and don’t particularly enjoy reading it for an audience. I enjoy reading others’ poems more, and would rather someone else perform my work. I think performance is an art in itself, separate from writing poems, and maybe that’s why I usually enjoy having my work read by someone else. It introduces a fresh perspective and brings a new aspect to the poem.

Who are some of your favorite poets, writers, musicians, filmmakers, or other artists?

Ross Gay, Laura Kasischke, Eileen Myles, Anne Carson, Yi Lu, Duo Duo, D.H. Lawrence, Rainer Maria Rilke, Charles Baudelaire, Marina Tsvetaeva, Li Po, Du Fu, Eileen Chang, Virginia Woolf, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mahler, Lo Ka-Ping.

What are working on next, and what excites you most about the future?

I am working on a book of translations from Li Po. I hope I live a long time and my writing keeps changing.


Mike Zhai was born in Shanghai and grew up on the West Coast of the United States. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan and is the founder and facilitator of One Pause Poetry Salon.

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