Street: How did you get started writing?
Nicole Teow: I have kept a journal for as long as I can remember but only began seriously writing pieces of short fiction and poetry senior year of high school.
Street: Where do you draw your inspiration?
NT: I draw inspiration from the daily happenings of life. The little things that you notice when you’re walking to class, the grander emotions when your life feels bulldozed over, the ephemeral moments in transit when you’re on a plane/train and have all the time in the world to think. I always try to capture unique experiences, feelings, characters, places, etc. —not unlike trying to bottle fresh air.
Street: What is your favorite subject matter?
NT: I don’t think that any particular subject matter draws me more than any other but I do believe that things that are more poignant in mind tend to spill out more easily than others. Then again, that’s only the beginning. Once you start editing all rules are broken and everything is on the table.
Street: You said you like to take readers/listeners on an “emotional ride.” Do you think performing your poems facilitates this more effectively than writing?
NT: Yes I do. Poetry comes to life when read out loud, and even more so when an author reads said poetry. When my friends come to my poetry readings, they always leave much more impacted than when they read my poetry on their own, flat on a page. Poetry, well my poetry at least, seems to become more shocking/ less PG when read aloud —something to do with the commanding voice or sultry tones perhaps?
Street: Tell us about the visual constructions that you sometimes include in your written work.
NT: Visual constructions are something I like to experiment with from time to time with limited to no seriousness. I think it adds to the “emotional ride” that the poem should encompass because it allows the reader to either feel a certain way or read the poem more closely in the style the author purports. In “things I used to do,” I tried to create a more gasping quality with the structure. That said, I’m just as likely to write in boring blocks, single lines, stanzas and the like.
Street: Where do you see your work taking you in the future?
NT: I don’t really know where anything will take me in the future. Life is very much up in the air right now. So it will be interesting to see how the next couple of years play out and how I document them too. Tumultuous times make for the best writing.
A collection of poems by Nicole Teow:
things I used to do
it has been a long time since I last made brussel sprouts or
swam out so far that my mother called the lifeguard or
painted my toe nails ten different kinds of neon or
cycled down the steepest street of the state or
did laundry piled taller than a toddler or
ran until the wind ate my voice or
left my eyelashes bare or
had 20/20 vision or
wore stripes or
Walk down the steps
The smell becomes stronger
Bulbs not replaced
Rodents dancing on the tracks
Ballrooms for the masses
Red, all red rattles
Walk on and stand
The first time
Always brightens eyes
Through the pitch-black
With only the glow
It’s like flight
Palms are sweatier
Like breath on windows
The grime coats
Smells of ammonia
Of purpose, lost
Winter has had over four hundred days
the sun has left forever.
There is no such thing as a savior.
These white walls with moss
from all the years indoors
your knees perfectly round
Look at the people
with kneecaps shot through
where walls have been blown apart
How they have lived
felt the world shake,
and come right back up from the ground.