Recently we at Fuzzable had the opportunity to review interlucent, the debut poetry chapbook from Isaura Ren, and today we are pleased to share that we were able to chat with them about their book, their literary magazine perhappened, and everything poetry.
Without further ado, let’s get right into it:
1. What was the writing process like for interlucent? How did this magical chapbook come together?
interlucent came together quite quickly! The majority of these poems were written during a two-month span in autumn when my life felt so chaotic, it seemed all I had was writing. That was my north star. I outlined a rough structure for the pieces, but they ended up doing their own thing, as poems tend to do! So those internal arcs of home versus the unfamiliar, love versus loss, safety versus danger, they were all a product of troubled waters. In stormy seas, all I had to cling to was the idea that I’d finish this chap, one word at a time. The words I needed landed like a life ring; I just followed their lead.
2. Are there any poems in interlucent that maybe mean a little more to you, that are extra special? What are they/why?
Oh gosh. All of them are significant to me for different reasons, but I’d say “afterglow” (my sonnet crown) and the final trio of poems (“by the numbers,” “binary system,” and “starbirth”) are the most vital to me. They deal with the heaviest topics out of any pieces in the chap, namely sexual assault/harassment and the death of a twin. I don’t often address these experiences in my work. I find it’s difficult to make such matters palatable, let alone beautiful or cathartic.
Yet I trusted the process, like I said before, and somehow, these pieces taught me how to move forward while writing them. It was difficult to excavate my long-buried feelings, but it needed to happen. Now, I feel so much freer, and I have those four poems to thank! Who needs therapy, right? (That was a joke. I still very much do.)
3. You’ve become quite the star on the poetry side of Twitter. What is it like having this vast community? What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of it?
Haha, that’s a weighty title! I’m not really sure how it happened, to be honest. I didn’t have much of a Twitter following before I started perhappened (maybe 200 followers?), but after founding the mag, I practically blew up overnight. It’s been great for my ego!
No, in all seriousness, I’m still reeling from having thousands of mutuals on my personal account. I can’t overstate what this community means to me. In fact, just earlier today, I was talking with a poet friend I met online about what a blessing this discovery has been. I never feel alone, whether that’s in my personal or professional struggles. Lit Twitter’s a strangely comforting place—I could post “Submittable needs to start paying for my therapy appointments” and get a ton of engagement from others who feel the same. (Seriously, if you can afford therapy, you should go.) I’ve posted about acceptances and rejections in equal measure and found an empathetic, warm response to both.
There are plenty of negatives with any online community, but I’ve found they’re not worth much energy. I’d rather focus on the good this community does every day, from boosting others’ work to sharing poems to giving advice and comfort, or even relating to silly Submittable memes. That’s what makes this all worth it!
4. Speaking of community, this community also allows for marginalized voices to really shine. One theme that really comes through in your book is queer love, and I was wondering if you might be able to talk about queerness in relation to this community and in relation to your writing.
Oh, that’s interesting. I wasn’t sure I hit the queer themes quite hard enough in this chap, but queer reviewers have all picked up on it! It’s an in-group thing, I guess. Yeah, so I’ve found that as I’ve gotten older (I’m 25), my self-expression in regards to sexuality and gender has become more… understated? I’m not sure that’s the right word, but I don’t feel a need to explicitly state the gender of the addressee in my romantic or sexual poems. I also don’t feel compelled to self-identify or expound on my gender identity in my poetry. In both cases, it’s already there. It’s for those who are looking.
I feel like queer readers will implicitly pick up on the queerness of these relationship dynamics, while straight readers can assign their own meaning to the piece. For example, the first poem in my chap, “aubade / alba,” is about wanting to shield my partner from the homophobic gaze, having to be vigilant of who sees our love. Any queer person knows this feeling of being hyper-alert, 24/7. It’s draining and, unfortunately, a universal reality for LGBTQ+ folks worldwide. However, one straight reader told me they interpreted the poem as being about an interracial relationship (which they were in), and another told me they believed the ending was about trying to conceive a child.
These interpretations aren’t necessarily incorrect. If that’s how this poem resonates with them, I love it all the more. That being said, sometimes I write fully explicit queer poems (ex.: “you can call me daddy if you want” in all guts no glory), and I love those too! I find that implicit queer representation reaches beyond the personal and into the universal, and can often reach out to readers who would otherwise not be able to relate. Those who know, know. Those who don’t can derive their own meaning. (Or hey! Maybe they’ll realize something about themselves.)
I’ve also recently come to realize that I’m not cisgender. I’m still discovering my truth in that department, and the LGBTQ+ and lit communities have supported me every step of the way. Many trans and nonbinary writers have contributed to my journey and helped me put language to how I feel. That’s invaluable.
While I’ve naturally faced hurdles as a queer person in lit, a majority of both communities have been nothing but supportive, whether I was identifying as a cis bi woman earlier in years past or a nonbinary lesbian now. (Yeah, it’s been a process.) 2020 has taught me a lot about myself, but I wouldn’t be anywhere close to where I am today without their support and nurturance! We’re all shining by being unabashedly ourselves. And when one of us glows, we all grow.
5. This year, you established an online literary journal. Where did the inspiration for the name perhappened come from?
Ah, my baby! perhappened is actually a portmanteau I came up with, so it’s the combination of “perhaps” and “happened.” I have this preoccupation with the fluidity of memory, the uncertainty of experiences colored by time. I love exploring surreality across genre lines in. So I thought of the name “perhappened” back in spring, sat with the idea for a few days, then put out an impulse Tweet seeking an artist. Aleah Dye, who’s our graphic designer to this day, was gracious enough to respond; we whipped up a logo that night, and the rest is history! Talk about surreal.
6. What has it been like pioneering a journal this year, from creating it to it really exploding on Twitter?
It’s been a ride, for sure! Nothing’s come easy, and as I had zero experience upon starting the mag, perhappened’s come a long way in a very short time. I still can’t quite believe the success we’ve had. I say “we” because it’s been a joint labor of love, from start to present. perhappened owes its growth to our first-ever reader Veronica Brevik, our once-and-future graphic designer Aleah Dye, our lead reader Vaishnavi Sharma, our prose editor and newest member df parizeau, and our fabulous readers Idowu Odeyemi, Kate Belt, and Richelle Sushil (and me, I guess).
What I’m trying to convey is that, if perhappened is a constellation, these people are its stars. I’m beyond grateful for the love, support, and enthusiasm each team member has brought to their work for the mag. The common spark that unites us is what’s made perhappened shine. This entire process, sweat and tears and all, has given me such gratitude for the work every editor must do. I’ve gained insight into the process of submitting, and I have even more respect for the lovely rejection emails I’ve received over this past year! It’s so much harder than you’d think to run a mag, but infinitely as rewarding. I want to run perhappened forever with this exact staff by my side.
7. What do you see perhappened’s future being like? It’s already seen so much success at less than a year old, and we can only imagine you have ideas for it to evolve even more going forward.
Haha, this is a dangerous question, because I want to spill the beans about a forthcoming announcement! I’ll leave it at this: January 1st, 2021. Watch us closely. We’re moving on up, and we’re excited to show you a new side of perhappened! Thank you for all of your support that’s made this venture possible.
8. This year especially, a lot of things have changed in, really, every facet of life. Has COVID/this year changed how you write or changed your relationship with writing?
Oh, absolutely. Before this year, I wasn’t writing, at least not creatively! I was a fresh college graduate with an Honors BA, about to apply to law school, with not the foggiest idea what I actually wanted in my life. Before the pandemic hit, I had a bit of a breakdown and cried to my mom: “I don’t know what I’m doing!” When she asked me what I did in my spare time, what I was really passionate about, the answer was writing my novel. That’s what prompted the creation of my pen name last year, and that’s why I joined writing Twitter. She said, “Okay, then. So write.” It was the simplest, bluntest advice I’d ever been given, and I took it! I enrolled in UC Berkeley’s Professional Writing Program and began to write poems in February 2020, and here I am now.
Honestly, I don’t know how seriously I would have taken my work had COVID not hit, but being cooped up indoors for months on end does something to a body. In my case, I took all that weirdness and all that anxiety and poured it into a Word doc, then into a lit mag. Thankfully, some folks liked it, and 18 published pieces, a successful journal, and a chapbook later, here I am! I’ve been faking experience, confidence, and authority this whole time. If I can do that, you can do anything!
9. Going into 2021, if you could describe what you want the new year to be in one word, what would that word be? Why?
“Uneventful.” Please. Of course, I hope for mine and my friends’ writing careers to flourish, and for our continued prosperity! This year was just… a lot. I’d love for us to catch our collective breath. I feel I finally understand that old curse: “May you live in interesting times.” We all experienced them in 2020, and though I’m under no illusion that 2021 will erase the myriad sorrows and stresses of this year, I’m cautiously hopeful it will be quieter! That’s all I want for us.
10. Finally, do you have any future projects, events, etc. that you would like to talk about or plug?
I’d love to talk about so many developments on the horizon, both personal and perhappened-related, but I can’t talk about any of them yet! What I will say is: watch Twitter on January 1st, mine and the mag’s. Yep. That’s really it. One cause I’d like to promote is For The Gworls, a crowdfunding campaign set up to provide Black trans and nonbinary people with gender-affirming surgery funds and rent money. They can be reached at linktr.ee/FORTHEGWORLSPARTY to apply for/donate to the funds or at their official website, forthegworls.party.
Are you loving Isaura Ren’s poetry and success on social media as much as we are? Tweet us @Fuzzable with all of your love for Ren and poetry!