Catching Up With Teow Goh

Where can we read some of your recent work?

My chapbook Faraway Places came out from Diode Editions this June. A few of these poems were originally published in Tinderbox, so I appreciate the opportunity to come full circle here. It is a strange collection that I find difficult to describe, but I had a great interview about it with Jill Khoury at Rogue Agent. Her thoughtful questions got me to articulate things that I hadn’t been able to put into words before. I learned a lot about my own work in that conversation!

Other recent work include an essay on what it means for an immigrant to be at home, a photo essay on landscape pictures I took during the pandemic, an essay-review of Carolyn Forché’s latest poetry collection In the Lateness of the World, in which I consider what it means to bear witness, and a critical look on how Dudley Randall used the ballade tradition in his poem “The Southern Road.”

What are you reading right now?  

I’ve been reading Cinelle Barnes’ memoir Monsoon Mansion and her essay collection Malaya. In Monsoon Mansion she writes about her childhood in the Philippines, in which her family lost their fortune during the Gulf War and her mother descended into madness. It is a harrowing book, but her language is lush and gorgeous. She has written extensively about her struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder, and I still marvel at the courage it took for her to write this story. 

Malaya covers her journey to the US. She was adopted as a teenager by a widowed aunt in Long Island, but due to a gap in the immigration laws, by the time the paperwork was completed, she was too old to be naturalized as an adoptee and lived for several years without documents. I am still reading the book and liking it very much. She can be funny, sharp, and dark at the same time, and she writes about immigration from the cracks that we rarely see.

What’s next for you? 

I just signed a contract with the University of Utah Press for my essay collection Western Journeys. This book has been fifteen years in the making, and in many ways, I had to live the questions before I could write the book. These essays cover journeys in the American West, including my work on recovering the lost histories of Chinese immigrants in the frontier era, my own immigration to the US, as well as dialogues with books and art.

In addition, my poem “Chinatown Burning,” a long narrative poem on the massacre of Chinese miners in Rock Springs, Wyoming, in 1885, will be appearing in a forthcoming issue of The Georgia Review with a companion essay. This poem is part of a book-length verse narrative on the Rock Springs Massacre that I completed this spring.

Bio: Teow Lim Goh is the author of two poetry collections, Islanders (Conundrum Press, 2016) and Faraway Places (Diode Editions, 2021). Her essays, poetry, and criticism have been featured in Tin House, Catapult, Los Angeles Review of Books, PBS NewsHour, and The New Yorker.