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4 Questions with Duggins Prize Winner VI KHI NAO

4 Questions with Duggins Prize Winner VI KHI NAO

Author: Mai Tran

June 10, 2022

Dedicated to the memory of author and journalist Jim Duggins, the Duggins Prize honors LGBTQ-identified authors who have published multiple novels, built a strong reputation and following, and show promise to continue publishing high quality work for years to come. This award is made possible by the James Duggins, PhD Fund for Outstanding Mid-Career LGBTQ Novelists, a fund of the Horizons Foundation, and includes a cash prize of $5,000.

VI KHI NAO is the author of six poetry collections: Fish Carcass (Black Sun Lit, 2022), A Bell Curve Is A Pregnant Straight Line (11:11 Press, 2021), Human Tetris (11:11 Press, 2019) Sheep Machine (Black Sun Lit, 2018), Umbilical Hospital (Press 1913, 2017), The Old Philosopher (winner of the Nightboat Prize for 2014), & of the short stories collection, A Brief Alphabet of Torture (winner of the 2016 FC2’s Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize), the novels: Fish in Exile (Coffee House Press, 2016) & Swimming with Dead Stars (FC2, 2022). She is an interdisciplinary artist who works in multiple and interchangeable mediums. Her drawings have appeared in literary journals such as NOON and The Adirondack Review. Her video, digital, and literary installations have been exhibited at the Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts in Providence in Rhode Island and in the largest exhibition halls for contemporary art in Europe, Malmö Konsthall, in Sweden. Her work includes poetry, play, fiction, nonfiction, performance, film and cross-genre collaboration. She was the Fall 2019 fellow at the Black Mountain Institute. 

Are there any LGBTQ writers or books that you count as formative influences to you as a writer? How did you discover them?

I grew up in Iowa—bovine and corny and with lots of white folks—so I was somewhat influenced by this white, pastoral landscape and by the Vietnamese music (Hoa Nở Về Đêm, LK Nỗi Buồn Hoa Phượng & Lưu Bút Ngày Xanh, Điệu Buồn Phương Nam, Gia Tài Của Mẹ) which I listened to at home. Most of which is not queer. I read Theresa Hak Kyung Cha. My grad professor introduced me to her now-famous Dictee

What does a writing day look like for you?

I lead a very boring life. I wake up early by waking up late. If I am co-writing a book with a friend, then I write with that friend for an hour or two (that slotted time changes depending on what time zone I flew myself in.) For someone who is prolific, I don’t sit in front of a computer and type away for 8 hours straight. I write very little unless I am working on a book—then I write for 10 to 16 hours a day for a month or so. By mid-afternoon, I am reading a book or two. Then I choose one of those books to interview the artist/writer/poet. By midnight, I climb into bed. 

Are there other LGBTQ writers working today whose work you particularly admire?

Ali Raz, Jessica Alexander, Daisuke Shen, Tiffany Lin, Chi Ta-Wei, Danez Smith, Anaïs Duplan, Eric Nguyen 

What’s next for you?

In 2023, I will have three or so books out: 

  1. Clash Books is publishing my poetry collection, War Is Not My Mother
  2. Funeral, a chapbook I co-wrote with Daisuke Shen, is coming out from Kernpunkt Press

On Pi day, Press 11:11 will publish my nonfiction: Suicide: The Autoimmune Disorder of the Psyche

Mai Tran photo

About: Mai Tran

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