We asked Lang Leav how she responds to criticism of her work

Lang Leav has already been up for hours and experienced rush hour traffic along EDSA when she comes down to meet me at the hotel bar at nine in the morning. The Thai-Australian poet is in the country promoting her new book Love Looks Pretty on You, and first on her schedule for the day was a 6:30 a.m. shoot with a local news channel. But when she sits down across from me and greets me hello, she is all smiles and full of vibrant energy.

Released last month, Love Looks Pretty on You is a collection of poetry and prose covering requisite themes of love, heartbreak, relationships, and the self. It is Lang’s seventh book, released six years after she first garnered equal parts acclaim and criticism for her debut Love & Misadventure, widely deemed a precursor to “Instapoetry” or, as Lang prefers to call it, “pop poetry.”

It’s no secret that Lang is a controversial, base-breaking figure among her fellow writers, all kinds of readers, or really, anyone who’s ever heard of Tumblr. But love her or feel less than enthusiastic about her, there are a number of things you can’t deny about Lang Leav. She’s more self-aware about how lucky she is than you think. She’s doing what she can to shake things up. (Love Looks Pretty on You, for instance, is more concrete compared to the vague and abstract imagery in her early work.) And, well, she’s not about to go away any time soon.

In this interview, she discusses her passion for using her voice and platform to empower women, how her writing process evolved with the new book, and how she responds to negative comments thrown at the pop poetry movement.

Lang Leav at the book signing tour for her new book ‘Love Looks Pretty on You’

Why was it important for you to single out and address these topics relating to womanhood and feminism in Love Looks Pretty on You?

Coming from a personal space, in the last 10 years of my life, there’s been a really dramatic shift in that I went from starving artist, and I made that leap into having a wonderful career, to being self-reliant. And that’s what I want for all women. Especially coming from a background where I was born in a refugee camp, and my family moved to Australia in a small migrant town. I was just so lucky that I had access to literature. Because of the library, I had access to education, and these are things that I want for all women.


Did you notice any changes or developments in your style and process while you were writing it?

As a writer, you’re constantly learning, you’re constantly evolving. I suppose one thing structurally that’s different with Love Looks Pretty on You is that I put the poems in a particular order on purpose, so that they follow a narrative. It reads almost like a novel if you read it from start to finish, and I’m not sure if anyone’s noticed that, but that was the way I wrote this particular book. I’d rather the reader discover the story for themselves, because I feel that poetry and prose are so personal to the person reading it. They take it onboard, and they take into their own experiences, and I think that is the most beautiful thing about poetry.


What did you learn about yourself after having finished it?

Because of the mad rush of the last few years, you know, with the launch of Love & Misadventure and how my life completely changed, I feel like I’ve been caught up in all that craziness for a long time, but now there’s a bit of a slowing down where I can afford to just sit back and look at what I’ve achieved in the last few years, take stock of it, and appreciate how far I’ve come from where I was. Think about future projects, think about what I want to do to use my voice coming into the future, and how I can better help girls and women from similar backgrounds. It’s something that I’m so passionate about. I think creativity and literature are wonderful tools for all women all over the world, and I just want that to be accessible for them.


How do you respond when you come across criticism toward your work as a poet who grew on social media, and on the pop poetry movement in general? Do you agree that literature should be held at a higher standard?

I disagree that it isn’t already a high standard. I think that with any new forms of literature, it takes some time for people to catch up to it. It’s not anything new. The Beat poets, they drew a lot of the same criticisms that we’re getting now. They tapped into the voice, the pulse of their generation, and I think that is happening again. It comes in cycles. I think poets like myself and others have taken that onboard, and we’re creating a following and a movement, and it’s exciting. It’s drawing people to literature in such a big way, and I think that’s wonderful.


How do you decide on which medium to use? Do you associate different experiences and feelings with poetry and prose respectively?

With a lot of writers, such as Margaret Atwood and Haruki Murakami, there’s a fine line between what is poetry and what is prose. I really love the idea of that. I love that something that can be read as poetry could also be read as prose. I feel that prose enters into a state almost like it’s poetry, when the use of language starts to sound like music. It just sounds beautiful, and I suppose that’s what I’m always striving for — the music.



Love Looks Pretty on You is available at National Book Store.


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