Koji A. Dae in the Spotlight

Koji A. Dae, whose poem ‘Child Time’ is published in issue 7 of Lucent Dreaming, is an American living in Bulgaria with she/her pronouns, anxious depression,
two kids and a husband. She has poetry published in ParAbnormal Magazine and Savant-
Garde Literary Magazine. Her first poetry book, Scars that Never Bled is due out in August. When not writing or parenting, she enjoys blues dancing and cycling.

So, what inspired your pieces ‘Child Time’ and ‘Women Like Me’? Can you tell us a little more about what they’re about?

A lot of my poetry touches on my experiences as a mother. Child Time is about my six-year-old son. He has a very strong sense of the world and opinions about “what is” and “what should be.” Unlike my daughter, who has always been curious, looking for adults to explain the things around her, my son blazes into every situation and makes sense of it himself. Trying to get him to understand that things don’t always work the way he thinks they do has been an uphill battle since before he could talk. Like most parents, one of the constant battles we have is over time. Getting shoes on for school, waiting for the bus… these things can stress any parent-child relationship. With me it is especially difficult because I’m obsessively punctual. This poem came about while I was at the park with my kids and, for once, I was able to let go and allow my son to invite me into his world instead of constantly pulling him into the “real” world. It was a bittersweet moment as I saw that he’ll lose some of his sense of wonder growing up, and I hate to be the one to take that away from him.  

Women Like Me was more politically driven than most of my poetry. After the passing of FOSTA/SESTA in the United States, there have been continued crackdowns against sites like Craigslist and Backdoor, which many sex workers use to stay safe while finding clients. At the same time, many of the politicians who have supported these laws and fought to further criminalize sex work have been outed as using the service of sex workers. As a former sex worker, the hypocrisy angered me to the point of poetry. At the same time, laws defunding sexual health clinics and the lack of social assistance for single mothers make it difficult for a woman to not have a child and difficult for her to raise one. The worst part for me was imagining a woman who loves her son so much that she does everything she can to give him access to systems of power only to have him invest so deeply in these systems that he uses them to harm her. 

What are some of your favourite books and art (including shows, videos, music) – of all time or more recently. Why are they favourites?

My most influential book was The Garden of Eden by Ernest Hemingway. I read it my senior year of high school and as a queer person with mental health issues (depression and mania) I felt very seen. I feel like if I hadn’t read that book I would never have understood the complexities of sexuality and the possibilities of various relationships. My reading is a bit all over the place but I am very interested in surrealism, especially afro surrealism, at the moment. As for poetry, I have been loving Jeanann Verlee lately. 

Music-wise I love both listening and dancing to blues. I also love Billie Eilish, Georgi Kay, and Tessa Violet. I don’t watch a lot of television these days, but I am enjoying introducing my son to Avatar the Last Airbender and Legend of Korra. 

What, if anything, are you looking forward to right now and what writing/creative projects are you currently working on?

I always have a few irons in the fire. At the moment my biggest project is my first full-length poetry collection, Scars that Never Bled, which I will publish in August. I just got the proofs for it and am quite excited. It is an exploration of Frankenstein through poetry and tarot which I started at the beginning of the year. It explores a lot of issues of power and Mary Shelley’s personal life as well as the original text and more recent adaptations. 

I continue to write and publish short stories and poetry, and I am working on a novel about time travel and dragons. 

Can you tell us about how you got into writing and art? Is there anyone whose support or encouragement really inspired or motivated you?

I’ve loved writing since I was a little girl. When I was in second grade, I wanted to grow up to be a writer, and I got through high school by obsessive journaling. During my early adult life, I put aside writing as an unrealistic dream because of the difficulty of breaking into publishing. However, when I moved to Bulgaria I returned to writing as a way to deal with the loneliness and isolation of being an immigrant. In some ways, writing saved my life, as I could always turn to it when I was in the deepest parts of my depression. 

Because Bulgaria offers two years of paid parental leave, I was able to write while my children were very young and develop habits to switch to writing as a career. It takes a lot of time and energy before you start seeing a return on the work put into writing, and it is very difficult to do without outside support. My husband is very supportive of my writing, and I am very grateful for the opportunities I have because of his support.  

Where can people see more of you and your work?

My website is kojiadae.ink and my twitter is @kojiadae. I keep a list of publications on my website, so you can find a bit of my writing there. I also have a monthly video bookclub through my newsletter, which people can sign up for through my website. 

Lucent Dreaming is an independent creative writing magazine publishing beautiful, imaginative and surreal short stories, poetry and artwork from emerging authors and artists worldwide. Our aim is to encourage creativity and to help writers reach publication! Subscribe to Lucent Dreaming now, support us on Patreon and follow us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram

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