Poet, performer and NEA fellow Hieu Minh Nguyen's award-winning work has appeared on the PBS Newshour and in POETRY Magazine, Gulf Coast, Buzzfeed, and many other venues. This year, Bustle listed Nguyen as one of "15 Poets You Need to Be Reading in 2018." Hieu Minh Nguyen is the final judge of the 2018-19 COG Poetry Awards.
Hieu Minh Nguyen
1. As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
In Kindergarten I made the mistake of telling my mom that I wanted to be a doctor when I grew up, so you can imagine her disappointment when I told her that I actually wanted to be a poet. If I were smarter, I would have set the bar low just so I could exceed her expectations.
2. How did you become you instead?
This is one of those questions that feels impossible to answer. I don’t know if I believe in fate, but I believe everything that happened to me (good and bad) has made me who I am and has shaped how I look at the world, which shapes how I write about the world.
3. Fave lesser-known hero (personal or fictional)?
Neville Longbottom taught me that tenderness doesn’t mean weakness and Samwise Gamgee taught me how to be selfless and that courage isn’t the absence of fear, but knowing that something else is more important than fear, which is totally a botched quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt that I first heard while watching The Princess Diaries.
4. What’s the most enjoyable aspect of your work; the least?
Getting to travel and meet people is amazing and I feel incredibly privileged to get to do it, but it can also feel incredibly lonely. Even when I’m surrounded by people, it can find myself feeling isolated from the world I know.
5. If you were a hybrid, what would your two halves be?
I’m a Gemini, which means I’m already split, but if I had to assign each half an animal, it would probably be half bear and half fish. Imagine: a bear fish.
6. Describe a teacher, student or colleague you hated (or hate, you big meanie); why?
Haha, I don’t know if I want to answer this. I’ve never been asked this in an interview before. I mean, in high school I hated a lot of my teachers, but that was because I was lazy and didn’t do my work.
7. In desktop publishing, a character tag is embedded code defining the style of a word or phrase. But in the literary lexicon, “character tags” refer to fictional characters’ habits, catch phrases or other distinguishing marks: Yoda’s syntax. Hello Kitty’s bow. Clint Eastwood’s rugged squint. What’s your character tag?
Probably my glasses or tattoos. I also have a very loud and obnoxious laugh. Maybe my self-deprecating humor.
8. What’s the last thing that made you laugh, cry or cuss?
I do all three multiple times a days for a myriad of different reasons.
9. Describe your ideal road trip.
One with a destination, but without the restraint of time. I like leisurely road trips. I also love the idea of driving across the country in a convertible with my friends, all wearing flowy scarves like a group of aunties.
10. What problem, large or small, are you hell-bent on solving?
There are a lot of large global problems that need fixing, but to start small, I’m trying to teach my dog how to fetch, but he’s a rescue and flinches anytime I throw anything. I am also trying to learn how to properly use a semicolon.