In Issue 82 of Bellingham Review is a feature on asemic art: “To Those Whose Eyes Wander.” This feature includes work by Sam Roxas-Chua who was interviewed by Stephen Haines. In this interview, the two discuss Roxas-Chua’s asemic work in the issue and elsewhere, and it wraps up with a list of music, books, and film that have moved the poet lately.
Haines asks Roxas-Chua about the work found in Issue 82:
STEPHEN: New Beak and Exhale is another favorite of mine from the work you contributed to Issue 82. I have read that you often use processes like ekphrasis in your work, and I can’t help wondering about that act of creating art in response to other art. Is the asemic writing in the right panel of New Beak and Exhale a direct response to the image on the left? The other way around? Or is this entire piece in conversation with something else entirely?
SAM: I was abandoned as a baby, but was fortunate to have a birth certificate and for some causes and conditions I was able to locate her in 2012. It didn’t have an Oprah show ending. A second rejection happened. I could go on and on about this story but find that it’s best to focus on the two images in hopes that it will let me narrate what I find difficult to tell. The two images are in conversation. Thank you for giving voice to that.
Coming up to that anniversary, I drew the bird image using collected soot made into ink, together with drops of squid ink. I wanted to write a poem by drawing an image. I mean, who is to say what a poem is and isn’t? In the tree where I was abandoned, I imagined I was fed by birds. When I was adopted, I was malnourished and had worms living inside my stomach. I was bloated like an egg. I believe the natural world was answering major questions. “Am I good? If I am good, why was I relinquished? What is wrong with me?”
The asemic writing on the right was a letter to my mother in asemic form where I was trying to exhaust everything I wanted to say. The image of the bird and the letter put together in conversation translates to “I am made of new beak and exhale.”