Reading Nina Mingya Powles’s I am a forest/ fire

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Nina Mingya Powles has produced a terrific new zine: I am a forest/fire – notes on Mitski & being mixed race.

 

Nina listens to Mitski, the Japanese/American songwriter, at her desk in Shanghai.

I noticed a swelling in my chest and in my stomach like something about to burst. I noticed how her voice lingers on every word. Something sweet / a peach tree.

Both Mitski and Nina are using the forward dash in lyrics/ poetry and prose as ‘A breath, a pause, a sharp shift.’ The forward dash is like the space on a line that allows room for pause, for new furnishings. There is much space in the zine. I like that.

Nina traces herself – her poetic lineage ‘made up of multiple languages and art forms, containing several oceans’.

She pulls herself into view. She doesn’t want to speak of herself in fractions with the pieces getting smaller and smaller as white people do ( I am a quarter Scottish, I might say).

I think of my own writing and how sometimes making a poem means making something exist outside of my own brain, my own skin. The poem contains parts of me and I still contain parts of it, but it’s also separate from myself, distinct, new.

I agree. We carry bits of things that we have read inside ourselves, the things that stick and prod and soothe. The things that change us forever.

Nina’s zine is like an album of pieces (the images, the Chinese characters, the hand scrawlings).

What do I know but pieces? All at once. Half sun, half moon. Half tooth, half bird. A blue lantern, a jade heart, a peach-pink melamine bowl.

The zine is beautiful. It is beautiful in the way it slows right down to a state of meditation, of facing the inner space, the diverse fragments:

The shadowy space in me shimmers like glitter.

Where there is a forest there is growth. Where there is fire there is heat. This gorgeous zine with its sharp edges is the growth and burn of  the shadowy space. It heats up inside you as you read.

And

this is writing that illuminates. The subject matter is tough – that insistent consideration of who you are. Outside a storm is close. I can see it in the dark clouds coming in from the coast and the way the manuka keep bending back. All I can think about is this zine. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

 

The shadowy space in me shimmers like glitter. I feel its burn and glow. It is a kowhai forest in a southern-hemisphere summer. It is bloodlines, it is threads, it is pieces of cotton hanging up to dry under a coconut palm, sheets of white and pink and blue.

 

Nina’s web site

BONUS: You can see Nina’s response to the Oceania exhibition currently on at the Royal Academy in London (essay + poems + collages/embroideries) here

 

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