Author: AK Hutzler
Genre: Poetry/ Chapbook
Length: 26 Pages
Available on Amazon and for free on Kindle Unlimited!
I stumbled across Hutzler’s work in the blogosphere and I was intrigued when I found out that she was a fellow Filipina. I was raised in the United States and never had the opportunity to get to know the Filipino side of my family. Therefore, I’m always on the lookout for books that might be able to help me to connect to my people and my culture.
The author employs the skillful use of language to draw the reader into her mindset. Her writing resonates with longing and determination. There were points in this collection when I felt as if I were on the airplane with her, bracing myself for a crash landing.
I lost my breath entirely when I came to the piece entitled, “Mahal Kita Was Not the First Phrase I Learned.” As I mentioned, I have a very limited connection to my Filipino roots. When I stumbled across the phrase, “Mahal Kita,” in Hutzler’s book, I stopped short. (Note: “Mahal Kita,” is Tagalog for “I love you.”)
It took my breath away because, while that was not the first phrase that the author learned in Tagalog (hence, the title of the poem) it WAS the first phrase that I learned in my father’s language. Furthermore, it brought tears to my eyes to realize that this was the first time I had ever seen Tagalog printed in a book.
Diverse representation is SO important. A huge part of the reason that we write poetry or read books is because, as human beings, we want to find others like ourselves. It is not good for humans to be alone.
In short, reading Hutzler’s work made me feel less alone. It made me feel seen and acknowledged.
The construction of the poems is tight and clever. I read many of the pieces multiple times because not only were they beautiful, but I wanted to plumb the deeper meaning lying just below the surface of the clear water of her words.
I know that the author wrote this book five years ago. I was so impressed by her work, that I sought out her website (California Pollution) because I was curious to see how her writing had developed over the years. After perusing her website, it looks as if the author’s writing has continued to improve over the last five years. It is my sincere hope that she produces another chapbook in the near future.
I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys reading diverse voices, loves poetry, or has ever had a broken heart.
(*Trigger warning: This chapbook, while a beautiful work of art, does include strong language and some adult situations. There is also allusion to disordered eating)
Interview with AK Hutzler
One of my favorite aspects of writing a Book Blog is the ability to connect with other authors about their work. I was particularly excited to interview AK Hutzler because she is a fellow Filipinna writer. Continue reading to here more about her thoughts on poetry, the writing process, and her other projects!
REVEREND REBECCA: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me about your chapbook, I Have Not Decided If You Can Drown on a Plane. First of
all, I found your title incredibly intriguing. It is a very clever turn
of phrase. Could you speak a little bit about why you choose this title?
AK HUTZLER: The title is very much a feeling. At the time, I was undiagnosed with
having bipolar disorder. I didn’t realize how much being around family
felt alienating to me, and on my plane ride home from California while I
was writing this chapbook, it felt like I was drowning. Either I was
drowning or leaving a situation that made me feel that way.
RR: Your writing is very passionate and full of powerful feelings. Can
you speak a little bit about the circumstances and/or if events that
inspired this collection? Would you classify your work as “confessional
AK: I guess I would consider my work confessional. My style is heavily
influenced by stream of consciousness, regardless of what perspective I
write from. When I wrote this chapbook, there were a lot of things going
on with my family. My immediate family was trying to recover from a
major event, and it was bleeding into my extended family. Too many
dynamics were changing, and I think I was in a depressive episode. This
was my method of coping with losing stability and feeling alone.
RR: My favorite piece in this collection is the poem entitled, “Mahal
Kita Was Not the First Phrase I Learned.” Would you be willing to talk a
little bit about what inspired this particular poem? Also, what was the
first phrase you learned in Tagalog?
AK: [The year] 2013 was not a great year for me. I started paying more attention to
what I could get if I phrased things correctly, and I used them really
well with guys. There were a couple in Florida and one in California who
gave me attention that I was flattering myself with, and sometimes I’d
spew “I love you” in a colloquial manner, knowing that maybe it meant
more to them. The more I said it, the less weight it carried. Any physical manifestation of the phrase was never on the horizon; it was all clinical. This poem was my way of processing how I felt about being detached from the words I was using. Mahal kita carried more weight than its English translation at the time, so it felt more appropriate to use in the title of a poem talking about love.
I wish I remembered the first phrase! My lola [grandmother] and mom regret not
teaching [me] more Tagalog, but my mom did make a point of teaching my
brother and I some things. We grew up learning anatomy in Tagalog, and
there’s a lullaby my lola and mom would sing to me growing up. It was a
huge shock learning that there were words in English for the human body.
RR: Do you have a favorite piece in this collection? If so, which one?
AK: If I had to chose one poem as a favorite from this collection, I guess I
would have to pick “Menswear is the Fashion Statement I like to Make
After a Mistake”. I like the flow of it, and I remember that girl more
clearly. It’s a voice that wanted to exaggerate these ideas that never
came to fruition and who reveled in a pain that might not have been
her’s to begin with.
RR: My father was from Cebu but I grew up Pennsylvania. If I May ask,
what part of the Philippines is your family from? Have you experienced
racism or adversity in the United States?
I actually had to ask my mom where she is from. She said the Pangasinan
province, but she grew up in California after her parents and siblings
immigrated to the states.
It took me some time to realize when I was experiencing racism directed towards me. For some reason, my brother was more of a target. I’ve had people misidentify me and direct racist comments towards me. I’ve watched family members get uncomfortable looks and comments directed towards them. I had an employer ask me if I was “oriental” on my first day.
I’ve struggled with my identity enough, without the pressures of society. My mom’s family struggled to assimilate, and I’m still living with that decision. This is probably best for another discussion though.
RR: What advice would you give to a young writer who was facing the
challenges of racism in today’s society?
AK: Keep going. Even if no one is there to lend you a hand, you can take your future into your own hands. There are going to be a lot of voices telling you where to go, what to do, and giving you too many unnecessary expectations. There is one voice you should listen to when you are creating, and that is your voice.
Others can weigh in, but continue with what feels best for you. Always take the higher path, even when it’s harder. You’ll meet the right people and the right voices to help you grow and edit along the way. There are too many opportunities in life where you can take racism and internalize it, allowing it to eat at you. Remember those moments but never carry them with you. They are learning experiences, not definitions.
RR: I know that you wrote this book in 2013. It is excellent, especially as a first chapbook; however, how do you think your writing has changed in the last five years?
Oh, I hope so. This chapbook was thrown together in one sitting and is an amalgamation of so many things. I was undiagnosed with bipolar disorder at the time. My parents were going through a rough patch, right before they decided to divorce. My family dynamics were changing, and the reality that I thought was mine was beginning to disintegrate. [The year] 2013 was an entirely different beast, and poetry was my way of reaching out to anyone who would read it and listen. It was also my way of processing. As I’ve begun to understand myself, the world around me, and what I create, I think my writing has grown and edited itself a little. At least, I hope so.
RR: Finally, do you have any plans for another poetry book in the future? What other creative projects are you most excited about right now?
Absolutely! I’ve wanted to be a published poet since I was in the second
grade, so taking the process into my own hands and self-publishing was
an amazing process. I want to put together another chapbook and submit
to some poetry magazines for publication before I attempt to put a
formal book together. My friend and I are also working on launching an
online literary magazine in 2019, so we’re very busy and excited!
Connect with AK Hutzler!
Do you love poetry as much as I do? Then you might like this post and interview with another great indie poet!
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