AS AN adolescent, there is always that piece of literature that, or an author who, introduces us to a genre we grow to appreciate. Before a reader’s widened exposure to various forms of literature, we all start from somewhere. These days Lang Leav opens the door to poetry for many young people.
It was late afternoon on Feb. 21 when this writer met the best-selling novelist and poet at the Raffles Makati’s Writer’s Bar. Her pearl necklace stood out as an accent to her all-black outfit. It was Ms. Leav’s fourth visit to the country — this time she was to promote Love Looks Pretty on You, a book that mixes poetry and prose.
“Poetry is pure emotion. It’s short, but very intense,” Ms. Leav said before discussing her writing process.
“I’ll get up in the morning, make a cup of coffee, and go straight into writing.” This ritual has remained the same since she began as a writer. “I allow ideas to come to me. It’s about choosing what I get to go with, and trusting my gut, and making something of it.”
Her pieces have consistently centered on love. “It’s not just me. Since the beginning of time, philosophers have been ruminating on love and it’s because it’s such a huge cornerstone of our lives,” she said.
“Love, [I think] is one of the most important things in your life,” she said referring to her own experience, as well as those of people around her. “It’s so complex and so multi-faceted.”
In her new book, Ms. Leav writes about empowerment, which includes her experience growing up as in a Thai refugee camp where she was born.
“It’s more of a reflective book… My mom was fighting the Khmer Rouge Regime while she’s pregnant with me and that’s something that I’m exploring [in my book].”
Since the success of her previous works — books of poetry including Love and Misadventure (2013) Lullabies (2014), Memories (2015), and Sea of Strangers (2018), and the novel Sad Girls (2017) — Ms. Leav admits it has been challenging to be in the spotlight.
“I’ve been so grateful for this opportunity that I’ve been given. And it’s something that I am, I think about a lot as I grow into my next role. And it’s almost like I’ve been given this huge megaphone. Now I have to figure out what I’m going to say next,” she said.
When it comes to criticism, Ms. Leav noted that she focuses on positivity. “Being a writer is about choosing what voice you listen to. I’d rather than listening to the words of the Yale professor (whom she mentioned is her mentor), than some 16-year-old boy sitting in his bedroom who is hateful.
“So I think the most important thing for young writers to remember is to have a small circle of friends to whom you show what you do. Ignore what everyone else says, because anyone who has any talent, or anyone who’s going to get anywhere in life will not be sitting behind a keyboard attacking [others],” she added.
Before we ended the 14-minute interview, Ms. Leav mentioned that she is currently working on a second novel about an aspiring poet which is targeted for release later this year.
“You have to write your own path and figure things out as you go… Don’t listen to the negativity just focus on what you’re doing. Do your writing.” — Michelle Anne P. Soliman