September 2013 English Major of the Month
Shinji MoonHometown: Mt. Kisco, NY
Year in school: Sophomore
Favorite books: A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit;
The Weight of Oranges / Miner’s Pond by Anne Michaels;
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
Why did you choose to be an English major?|
I’ve always had a thing for English classes. They’ve been an incredibly comforting and safe space for me to exist within, and beyond that — the world of literature, of words, has taught me so much about myself and about human empathy. I chose English because reading and writing have always been a constant in my life and I can’t imagine myself without them, because I have met some of the most passionate and wonderful human beings through literature, and because I’m trying to find comfort and answers that I don’t think I could get to as quickly on my own.
What are you looking forward to most as a newly-declared English major?
A chance to read classics that I know I wouldn’t take the initiative to read on my own time, and the opportunity to look at a piece of text and hear interpretations from all these different perspectives.
Do you do anything outside of the major?
As of now, I’m planning on minoring in Creative Writing, either through the Poetry or Creative Nonfiction paths, and have a vague plan of double-majoring in another field that I’m not yet fully sure of. Hopefully I’ll get there in a little bit.
Tell me about your newly published book of poems.
The Anatomy of Being was, while I was in the process of putting it together, cathartic to me. It was a way to put certain difficulties and growing pains in my past to rest, while simultaneously trying to create a book of poems that I wish I had while I was going through the hard patches in my life: something that would bring me hope, warmth, comfort. It’s broken up into four chapters, starting from the outward skin and the physical realm and then delving, throughout the book, into more abstract concepts. It tunnels from presence to absence, from love to loss, from hands touching hands to the intercostal space between bones to what we all are when our bodies are stripped away and we have to deal with what is left behind. And what I think — what I believe — is that at the end of that tunnel, in the farthest corners of ourselves, there is light, there is hope. That idea has gotten me through a lot of my life, and I wanted to put it all into words, in case I could help someone else feel less alone and warmer along the way.
What was the publishing process behind The Anatomy of Being?
I had the idea of self-publishing instead of looking for publishers. This project is incredibly personal and important to me, and I wanted my first book to be all my own, without going through multiple hands in the process. I wanted it to be as true and as wholly me as I could possibly make it, and I think I succeeded in that, which I’m so happy for. I spent a lot of first semester and my entire winter break putting together draft after draft, scrapping poems altogether and ditching format ideas everyday. It was incredibly frustrating but it was the most gratifying feeling to watch something real come together. A couple of friends helped look through the first and second drafts for me, and without them the book wouldn’t have come together at all. Through Lulu I picked the paper quality, the size of the book, put together a cover, and made sure that the pages were formatted properly. It took a couple of tries. I ordered multiple review copies and had to go through and edit each poem individually and check for flow dozens of times while trying to balance schoolwork and other projects and some form of social life, but by the end — somehow, it all managed to come together!
How has having a large online presence based on your poetry affected you?
I’ve had my Tumblr for four or five years now, and the support that I have gotten for my writing has been so necessary for my own growth and for the growth of my writing. It has helped me blossom tremendously, and I’ve become much more confident in myself in the process. It has introduced me to so many different poets and writers, and the compliments and constructive criticism that I’ve received have helped me more than any class I have taken on writing so far. It’s the internet. No one even feels the need to sugarcoat themselves when they don’t have their name attached. It’s both terrible and wonderful. And, without my followers, I wouldn’t have been able to sell my book as successfully as it is being sold. I wouldn’t even have had the idea that I could publish something to begin with. There are a lot of things in my life that would be incredibly different without the luck that I’ve had through Tumblr, and I really can’t imagine what my life would be like if it had gone in any other direction.
Where do you like to read and write? Do you have an ideal environment?
I really enjoy reading on public transportation. Immersing yourself in a book while traveling across a country or overseas is really surreal when you pick your head up and look out the window and can act as a quiet presence as the world whirls onward. There’s simultaneously so many and so little distractions when you’re contained in motion. As for writing, I have this dream of owning a place one day where I have a small room to just write in. No distractions. No computer. Just me and my headspace and a lot of blank paper, looking over a city street or a field of poppies or something along those lines, but if I were to be honest with myself that would probably bore me endlessly. I can write anywhere. I feel like setting myself up with too many conditions to write is hindering because knowing me, I’ll use those conditions as excuses not to write. But ah, ideally I would always write in somewhat private public places, under the condition that I feel like I can pass by without being noticed. Parks. Coffee shops. Trains and planes. All the places where people can see you without really looking.
What are your expectations for the future, if any?
I just want to do something meaningful and write something worthwhile and share all of my life with people who are important to me. So far, I think I’ve been doing pretty well with that. I’m taking things day by day right now because plans keep changing and there’s no solid future that I can hold onto, but I’m becoming more and more okay with that. And as far as expectations go, the only actual ones I have are internal. Having expectations towards a constantly changing world is mostly a recipe for disaster, in my book.
Has the city or your experience at NYU affected your writing significantly?
On moving into the city I became incredibly anxious and ambitious. I put out a book, immersed myself wholly in a lot of different communities, and tried to noodle myself into the English department, which I successfully did with CLS and other smaller writing communities. The city impacted my wood, which I’m sure impacted my writing. If I take a real close look at what I’ve written in the past year, my language got a little rougher around the edges. Less flowers and more subway grates. I grew up in a town surrounded by forests and lakes and trees and trees and trees, so moving here made me lose the softness of endless greens. It’s interesting to think that the city could change my color palette, but now that I think about it: there’s a lot more grey, a lot more rain and a whole lot more people in my writing these days.
Do you have any advice for young authors and poets like yourself?
I never feel like I’m qualified enough to give writing advice to people, but when I was in Iceland over the summer I met this woman, Barbara, who gives seminars on the post-publishing-your-first-book writer’s block somewhere in Kansas. She said that the worst thing that a writer could be is too comfortable, and that the surefire ways of getting out of that headspace and becoming uncomfortable is by “having a doomed love affair or traveling.” And so far — at least for me — it’s been fail-proof.