The Lightning Room With Changming Yuan

Changming Yuan like a leaf, like water, like a building seven hundred children tall.  (see Changming’s Skyline in our Jan issue)

1) I thought I recognized your name and then I realized you’re one of the first people I published when I worked with the Exquisite Corpse. Reading your bio, I see you’ve been published in almost 600 publications. So I guess it’s not that much of a coincidence. How has your poetry evolved since your first publication?

Thanks so much, dear Ed. DeWitt, for this opportunity to talk about my poetic work, and I feel truly honored! To begin with, poetry seems to run in the blood of my family. When my father died in January of 2012, my mother revealed that he had always wished to be a poet, though he never got anything published during his lifetime. Growing up in an impoverished Chinese village, I fell in love with poetry and dreamed about living like Li Bai at the age of 14 when I had my first exposure to poetry of any kind. Although I did make dozens of poetry submissions in China, I never got even a rejection slip. Luckily, many years after moving to Canada as an international student, I had one of my first English poems published in the summer of 2005 and, ever since then, I have been writing and publishing much more poetry than I myself imagined – thus far, my poetry has appeared in nearly 700 literary journals/anthologies across 26 countries. Also interesting is perhaps that at the age of 15, my teenager younger son Allen Qing Yuan began to publish poetry worldwide, apparently under my influence: Every time I receive a contributor’s copy, I ‘force’ him to take a look at my work and, after much reading, he has turned out an actively publishing poet in his own right. Now we have formed a ‘father-son comraderie in poetry,’ as some editors like to call us, to publish our own newly-started literary magazine called Poetry Pacific (, which has been developing surprisingly well – by the way, all poetry submissions are welcome at yuans[at] While my elder son George Lai Yuan, a busy senior engineer in Silicon Valley, had his first poem published early this year, my poetic work has finally begun to appear in Chinese media since last winter, but ironically only after I became an internationally widely published practitioner of the art.

2) How is your Skyline different when someone else reads it?

For me, every reading (of the same work) is a new poem. Each time my Skyline is read, it may look more like a monster’s mouth, a dream vision, a meeting line between sea and coast, or a limbo between hell and heaven, depending upon the reader’s frame of mind.

3) What are three bad habits of your poetry?

I love this question, as I have many very bad habits! For one thing, I often make blanket-submissions: desperate to get my work published, I fitfully make several hundreds of submissions to magazines without reading their guidelines beforehand – I have neither the time nor the patience. Since I have been writing a lot of poetry on a regular basis on the one hand and cannot find a publisher to present my poetic work in the book form on the other, I hope to get to as many readers as i can in this only way. Worse still, I love to play with what I call ‘module’ poetry or do poetic collaging; that is, I enjoy grouping and arranging my short individual poems into a larger structured piece in different ways to bring out more poetic possibilities. This habit may sound like a tendency towards ‘self-plagerism’; and a good example is my ‘N.E.W.S.'(‘W.E.N.S.,’ ‘S.W.E.N’ or ‘Directory of Directions’). Worst of all, I often write a group of poems with exactly the same title: once I become haunted by a particular intriguing conceit, I could not help making repeated efforts until I feel exhausted, as in the cases of “Snowflakes’ and ‘My Crow.’ Resulting from this, I constantly get both my editor and myself confused about which one has been submitted to, accepted, or even already published by which magazine. Such lousy idiosycracies lead to nasty errors from time to time, but more important than anything else for me is to write and publish as much poetry as I can before death, which seems no longer far from me now.

4) When I read Skyline, I feel like I’m drinking a glass of water after having sex. Why do I feel that way?

I am not sure. Perhaps it has to do with the way the poem offers the reader the kind of feeling I hope to capture and convey, a clear and cool vision my mind’s eye sees whenever I recall the dawn or dusk view of a coastal city like Vancouver.

5) What politician would be most improved by reading Skyline?

I have no idea, but it would do no harm to politicians like G. W. Bush whose political vision appears to contain a bit too much frenzy.

6) You wake-up in a field of wheat beside Skyline. You can hear a dog barking somewhere far away. You’re lost. What does Skyline say to comfort you?

Between day and night, there is always plenty of cool time, when we can stop to think, about everything or nothing at all, isn’t there?