Meet the Writer: Kim Koga

Kim Koga is currently a web development intern at Oceanhouse Media and a co-managing editor at 1913 Press. Her work has been published in Lantern Review, Grab the Lapels, and _list magazine, among others. She currently resides in San Diego, CA.

You and I met in 2009 in the University of Notre Dame MFA writing program. How did you end up there?

I wanted to leave California. I had lived in Encinitas my whole life, and I needed a way out. My undergrad prof Sandra Doller told me about MFA programs. I had no idea that these things existed! I had been writing poetry for many years and had helped found the Creative Writing Community and Workshop at Cal State San Marcos (my undergrad) – so I was very involved in the creative writing scene on campus. Sandra suggested that I look into the MFA programs out there – in the end, I applied to 11 schools (all outside of California), got into 3, loved meeting ND students and professors at AWP and on campus when I visited, and chose ND.

How have you developed creatively since then?

My writing has changed a lot since I left ND. While, it’s always turned inward, I have been able to explore different subjects and different parts of myself through my writing. I used to write pretty much about love and sex, but I feel that I’ve turned more towards feminism and identity outside of those things. Also exploring cultural fits – for example, sometimes I wonder where I fit in to the culture of San Diego, or Encinitas, or _______. I often feel outside in various ways, and I’m learning how to write and explore these feelings/thoughts.

What are some themes and styles present in your poetry collection, Ligature Strain (Tinfish Press, 2011)?

I am not sure how to talk about the styles – but themes I can approach more readily. I had read Aase Berg’s With Deer (Trans. Johannes Goransson), I think, almost a year before I wrote Ligature Strain. I was thinking a lot about motherhood, birth, postpartum depression, infections and invasions – the body – my body, my illnesses and how they affect my body, how humans are animals, and how humans invade and usurp animals homes/lands. People have mentioned that it’s ecopoetic, though I’ve never thought about it in that vein – perhaps there is a relationship there? I tend to turn inward.

Hmm, as for styles – I was thinking squares, tightness, suffocation. I wrote it long in a notebook, but when I formed it on the page I broke it up into small squares so that it felt claustrophobic on the page. I wanted the words to invade the head of the reader rather than splay loosely on the page. I love the prose form too – which is not to say that line breaks do not matter – because they do – but I like to think about how the page interacts with themes of the piece. I felt that this piece needed a tight prose boxes. I think that the page communicates as much as the piece does.

Photo Credit: Jesse Porter, 8/30/2015

You’ve done work for a couple of presses, namely Action Books and 1913: A Journal of Forms. What sorts of things do interns do for presses?

When I was with Action, I did all kinds of things – I tabled the AWP bookfair, sold books, managed author signings at the table. From the office at Notre Dame I mailed review copies, wrote release letters, order fulfillment, copy edited manuscripts, corresponded with authors, sent authors’ copies and more. With 1913 – the first time I interned for them I just tabled for them at the bookfair, sold books, talked to customers, etc. Now, I am in a co-managing editor position where I am helping to manage schedules, order fulfillment, and corresponding with authors.

How do you maintain a role in the literary community today?

These days are very different – I am a very introverted person – in personality and in mind. I am selfish with my time since it is short (not in any certain way, but more so that life is short). I find myself participating by writing book reviews mostly. I read things online, and follow many poet/writer friends on Facebook to keep up on the happenings. I try to go to readings at local universities too.

Since I have invested in writing longer poems – I am more thoughtful in ways and publish less often. I am reading some poetry this weekend at an aquarium – which I am super excited about! But mostly participate in the community through 1913, reading books, writing reviews, sometimes reading my work in public, and keeping up with social media.

The reading at the Birch Aquarium. Poet Adam Bishop taped pieces of poem to himself. He took the pieces off and read them for the performance. Bishop then stuck the pieces on Koga, who was “running” away from Bishop and reading from The Descent of Alette by Alice Notley to random people at the aquarium. Everyone was there for a poetry/music performance, but Koga feels she made the audience uncomfortable as they walked around and looked at the animals. Photo credit: Sarah Bishop.

What are you writing these days?

This year I started a web development bootcamp LEARN Academy in San Diego. I LOVE it. So, I have been writing a lot of code! Part of what I love about it is that it’s just like poetry. It’s writing poetry in another language. So I am exploring digital poetry and I have started writing a homophonic translation program, which I am hoping to be able to complete within the next year. It’s huge project! I’m also working on a long poem called girlgirl, and I have several books to read and book reviews to write.

I have a list of projects inside my head too. I want to write geek sonnets – some Buffy sonnets and Star Trek: the Next Generation sonnets. I also want to play with the form of the sonnet to create others works. I guess you could say that I’m writing these inside my head.


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