Dear Mr. Sze,
In your poem “The Chance," I connected to many things, amongst one of them was the insatiable need to be defined by yourself absolutely. As people we are comprised of thoughts, passions, feelings that we can’t explain and experiences that make us uniquely… well, us. I think in the poem you expressed that while the shoe may not fit for all, for example, the way an insurance salesman’s plight may be circumstantially different from a struggling musicians, we’re all traveling on the same journey of self expression manifested in different ways. I like the idea of a constant search for passion, for never letting go of it or wondering where it went as you go about your life. I like the idea of being thirty and still searching. I like the idea of looking for constant fulfillment. Others may not because of indefiniteness it brings, but as a reader, it only excites me for the inevitable. I believe if you search long enough you will find what you are looking for, and I think if we can find ways to shine again and again, all the better.
I would also like to take the time to ask you where you feel the most at home, where you are able to shine, a place aside from your writing. What are your passions and what gives you meaning in life? Are the blue black mountains referenced in the first line inspired by any particular mountains you’ve seen in real life? How do you know something inspires you enough to include it in your writing? How did you begin writing, and how have you changed since?
May 1, 2015
Thanks for your letter. I’m glad “The Chance” may be of help as you search for and envision your passion and fulfillment in life. And, as you look, you will need to sift out what others have said (including what I say here), so that you can find for yourself what truly matters.
In response to your constellation of questions, I have a few comments. I’ve lived in Santa Fe for over forty years, and this is my home ground. When I wrote “The Chance,” I was working as a poet in the schools in Springer, New Mexico. One late Friday afternoon, driving back to Santa Fe, I flipped on my car lights. At that hour, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains were blue and black, so that image came directly into the poem. And when I flipped on the headlights, I suddenly had the feeling that we are all like points of light travelling along a road—darkness behind, darkness ahead—and that sensation became the seed to my poem.
My family and friends, and writing poetry, give meaning to my life. A quirky passion of mine is mushroom hunting. In July and August, I like to hunt boletes, chanterelles, and other edible mushrooms in the alpine forests of northern New Mexico.
You ask how I began writing, and I came to poetry rather late. My parents were immigrants from China, and they hoped I would become a scientist or engineer. In high school, I was good at math and science. I applied to MIT, was accepted, but, that freshman year, I started to write poetry. I was so excited by writing that I changed direction and transferred to the University of California at Berkeley. Over time, I’ve grown and deepened and so has my poetry. When I write, I like to play with language, but I also need to feel some urgency. That inner necessity helps me decide what is in the final version of a poem, but the process is mysterious and intuitive.
With all best wishes,