Crossover and mess and fluidity: David interviews Patrycja Humienik

David Siew Hii, our editorial fellow in poetry for issue 72.2, interviewed every poet in the issue. To better center their voices, they removed their questions, giving them more space to talk about poetry and life. The document that follows is a curated, compressed version of that conversation. Read Patrycja’s poem “On Self-Deceit.”


Hi. I’m good today.

There’s actually sunshine in Seattle. So that changes everything.

I have a lot of complicated feelings about place and how to write it. Place permeates my poetry whether or not I intend it.

My first book—not yet published—is called Anchor Baby. I’ve been grappling with place, including bodies of water, and ideas of home and belonging. Questions about belonging, even to oneself, and how to reckon with imposed scripts for women, good daughterhood, sexuality.

How we might betray ourselves…

I have an obsession with landscapes and ideas of the landscapes inside of us. In the book I’m also thinking through inheritance, specifically Catholicism, and how religious tradition can discipline us into obedience.

I feel like when I think about this idea of self-deceit, I think about how alignment feels impossible. How/who do we align ourselves with? How do we get right with ourselves and our relationships with others?

So, it didn’t feel right to have a poem that is all left-aligned and on one plane. That just didn’t feel true in terms of meaning-making and grappling within the poem.

And then I also just have a frustration with the left margin. Sometimes I refuse it.

I like to consider white space on the page, and I love the idea of stanzas being pulled apart and reordered by your own eye.

I guess I love the kind of chaos that’s possible with nontraditional forms. How we might put some of our multiplicity on the page.

I’m really curious about improvisation and experimentation and not necessarily sticking to one process. I just, I can’t work that way. I have a background in dance and music, other art forms; a touch of chaos is where and how my art is made.

Once I had all the parts, this poem came together rather quickly. But the bones of it are old, from a failed attempt at an ekphrastic poem three or four years ago.

My relationship to form and the line connects back to what we said at the very beginning—the reality of being a child of immigrants is a very intense awareness of multiplicity and the many different lenses on how to be in and look at the world.

There is polarizing duality, but there’s more crossover and mess and fluidity. Contradiction doesn’t necessarily mean neat opposition.

Duality—that’s a reductive way that people talk about immigrants and the children of immigrants. Yes, it’s true you’re navigating two cultures. But there’s so much gray.

The word liminal has become so overused. But, it is that in-between space that’s of interest to me.

And I love to have poems within the poem—that is sort of what I meant about having a piece offer multiple readings, multiple worlds, a world in a line. Does that sound overly ambitious?

I’m interested in movement and progression in poetry that’s less about linearity and more like a chord progression in music. What dissonances or melodies are happening? Thinking about order, yes; it took me a while to get the order right. If each line is some kind of passage…

As the daughter of Polish immigrants—and coming from a white immigrant family—I grapple with it means for me to claim a We and risk speaking for someone else. I don’t attempt to speak for anyone—including my parents’ experiences.

Many writers I know who are also children of immigrants, it feels like so many of us are grappling with this because, on one hand, we want to push back against the omissions and the silences in our family histories.

On the other, there’s a performance of immigrant narratives and traumas that happens in this country: a sort of good immigrant, deserving immigrant—and those narratives can be weaponized.

It weighs heavy on me.

But then, it’s really beautiful to attempt to confront and weave all these different stories together across generations.

There are so many things I love about being a poet. Oh gosh.

I’m so grateful for friendships through poetry—even just conversations like this one—how poetry deepens my experience of life, and my experience of life deepens the poetry and it’s this beautiful, ever-growing thing.

I think I come back to the conversations I get to have with the living and dead, beloveds on the page and in real life. Thanks to poetry.

Patrycja Humienik, daughter of Polish immigrants, is a writer and performer based in Seattle, Washington. Her poetry appears or is forthcoming in Gulf Coast, TriQuarterly, the Adroit Journal, SAND Journal Berlin, 128 Lit, Ninth Letter, the Slowdown show, and elsewhere. She has collaboratively developed performance work for Titwrench Festival, GayCity Seattle, REDCAT New Original Works Festival, Dikeou Literary Series, and Film on the Rocks at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Patrycja is working on her first book.