Author Q&A with Soon Jones
by Christine Nessler
March 30, 2023
This week’s Author Q & A is with Soon Jones. Jones is a Korean lesbian poet from the rural countryside of the American South, and writes for the same reason they breathe. Their work has been published in Westerly, beestung, Juke Joint, and Moon City Review, among others, and can be found at soonjones.com.
Jones’ poem, This is How the Body Knows, is featured in Issue #10 of The Good Life Review.
Tell us about yourself.
I grew up in the rural countryside in the South where I was often the only non-white person for miles around. There’s been times growing up when I had to run away from people who meant me harm either because I was Asian or gay, probably both. That’s where the hyper-vigilance in the second stanza of the poem comes from.
All that being said, when I think about the things I’ve been through, including cancer, I just have to laugh because what can you do but move forward? Trauma, but laughing about it. That’s me in a nutshell.
This is How the Body Knows provides an intimate look at the devastating effects of cancer. Was this poem inspired by your own experience? How has the experience formed who you are?
Yes, this poem is autobiographical. I was trying to put into words the weird headspace I’ve been in, where all these things were running through my head, the surreal experience of being diagnosed with the same cancer that killed my mother during COVID of all times, how trauma and grief is a never ending cycle.
The cancer diagnosis really made me get off my butt and start writing like a ridiculous amount and send my work out, instead of waiting for my writing to be “perfect.” It’s made me a lot braver and more intentional with my work and my life, ’cause it’s like, “You might die, so better put your writing out there now.”
What message do you hope reaches your audience through This is How the Body Knows?
Listen to your gut instincts when something feels off about your body, even if it’s scary. Especially if it’s scary. Tell your loved ones you love them while they’re still here.
Was writing the poem therapeutic for you? What impacted you most when writing it?
Very much so! The act of taking an ugly experience and transforming it into a poem is incredibly cathartic for me. When I put something into a poem, that’s how I know I’ve reached a place where I can let this thing go. The biggest impact of writing This is How the Body Knows was that it helped me make sense of the last few years and grieve for my body.
Tell us about the work you have done or do that makes you most proud.
It’s completely unrelated to poetry, sorry to say, but I wrote a sci fi novel over the course of my cancer treatment and recovery that is very near and dear to my heart, and I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written to date. Hopefully other people will think that too. Of course, I put a lot of poet sensibilities into it!
What is your writing process? How do you make it a part of your daily life?
I’ll make a list of ideas I want to write poems about and some lines here and there. I always have my Notes app open on my phone to jot down poem snippets or story ideas as they come to me. A lot of first drafts of poems are written on my phone while I’m out walking my dog.
As far as my daily life, at the beginning of the year I make a list of writing goals like: write at least this many words and at least this many poems over the next 12 months. I keep track of all that month to month. But honestly, I’m just addicted to writing. It’s what I think about when I wake up and when I go to sleep.
This is How the Body Knows is written in such an honest way. Is much of your poetry direct? What is your favorite type of poetry to write?
I’m pretty straight forward in general, so I think my writing just comes out that way, too. I don’t like to beat around the bush if I can help it.
My favorite type of poetry to write is surreal imagery, but I’m also terrible at it – probably because it’s not direct at all. I’m working on it though!
How does poetry help you to navigate through life?
When it comes to writing poetry, it’s basically my therapy. I feel so light and clear after writing something dark. The darker it is, the better I feel when it’s done.
When it comes to reading, I think poems are like magic. Every time I read a poem that just nails a feeling or mood and makes me feel so incredibly seen I’m just like, “How did they do that? How did they know?” I don’t know, poetry just helps me breathe.
What part of the artistic process do you consider to be the most difficult, as well as most satisfying, and why.
Titles! I cannot think of good titles for the life of me and it stresses me out. Sometimes I spend more time agonizing over a title than I do writing the actual dang poem. This is How the Body Knows is a rare exception, but that’s because I cheated and just used the original first line as a title.
Revisions are the most satisfying. That’s when it all really comes together for me, especially after I’ve had my poet friends read and give notes. They always have amazing insight that super motivates and energizes me to be a better writer in general.
What do you think of when you hear the phrase, “The Good Life?”
Sitting in a rocking chair on a front porch on a nice warm day, sipping tea and shootin’ the shit with my friends. It don’t get much better than that.