I was pretty stunned when Larissa Lai was the feature at Planet Earth Poetry in Victoria, BC, a few months ago. Her use of Haibun is a very dense, playful and rich language gesture, but the substrate is a commitment to social justice, “poethics” and resistance to colonialism in all of its forms, whether that be the People’s Republic of China or the United States of America. Perhaps being Canadian helps and having roots in Hong Kong can explain some of the fierce energy underneath these 64 poems.
She graciously agreed to an interview and we met via Zoom on Wednesday July 7, 2021. Here is my introduction:
Iron Goddess of Mercy is a long poem that channels the vengeful energies of The Furies to address modern-day issues of systemic racism, colonialism, climate destruction and genocide in 64 dense haibun. With influences ranging from Hanna Arendt to Muppets creator Jim Henson, from Bing Crosby to the Dead Milkmen, from Rita Wong to Mao Tse Tung and the Tao Te Ching, Larissa Lai blends them all together in a dense stew of language with a haiku to cleanse the palate. Larissa Lai is the author of two previous books of poetry and two novels, holds a Canada Research Chair in Creative Writing at the University of Calgary where she directs the Insurgent Architects’ House for Creative Writing.