Our latest story
The last portrait made me stop to take a second look. Unlike the other monks, this one was gazing directly out at the viewer. His face was painted in the standard Yamato-e style, just lines for the eyes and a hook for the nose, but there was something strangely expressive about the minimalist painting: a slight tension in the angle of his eyes, one hand holding a brush in midair, as if hesitating.
The bald little monk stared up at me out of his portrait, as if he were trying to speak to me. The plaque beneath the painting read:
Monk Anchin (1244-1316)
Collection of Seitokuji, 14th century, artist unknown
There was no background or architectural detail in the plain portrait, but there was a lit candle-stand beside him, a common pictorial convention for depicting nighttime. Why would the artist take pains to portray Anchin, unlike the other poets, writing by candlelight?
The Dream Diary of Monk Anchin – Felicity Drake
The Forest of New People – Thom Connors
Time’s Arrow – C. Heidmann
The Stars Don’t Lie – R.W.W. Greene
Q: Aliens. Are they out there?
A: In a vast universe, surely they are—although maybe in unfamiliar forms, or so far away that we can’t meet them (yet!).
It’s exciting to think that something so consequential is still totally unknown. It’s good to have a little sense of mystery in life.
Phong’s parents are from tropical Vietnam, so after they immigrated to the United States of course he was born in Minnesota on April 1st on the last day of a big snow storm—a great April Fool’s joke for everyone involved. Immediately afterwards, his family moved to sunny California where he was raised. Phong eventually became a corporate lawyer, working in New York, Beijing and now Singapore, where he is currently based.
Q: Do you make art other than prose? What kind, and how is it different?
A: In what now feels like another lifetime, I was a musician. I was that kid in school who wrote lyrics in class, and read when the teacher was speaking, and for most of my late teens and early twenties, I played shows regularly. In retrospect, it was the lyric writing that I enjoyed the most. That realisation is what pushed me into prose, then flash fiction, then short stories, and novels. While I still compose music and sing along to Taylor Swift in the car, I don’t do shows anymore. But, I don’t really know how to describe the difference between playing in front of a few hundred, or thousand, people and having a story come out. Can they be compared? In terms of writing them, songs are bursts of creativity and emotion. Stores require more planning, and definitely more time.