Lauren Bullock is a queer Vietnamese and Black writer, performer, and teaching artist. Her work has appeared on AFROPUNK.com, The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, and more. She currently serves as a staff writer for Black Nerd Problems, poetry editor for FreezeRay Poetry, and crime-fighting costumed vigilante of many aliases.
from the artist
Why do you write? What compels you to write?
I've always been drawn to storytelling and crafting with words; I still have my earliest poem from kindergarten tucked away with every notebook and journal I've ever written in since. As someone with many different intersecting identities there's something soothing and powerful about not only being able to articulate my own narrative clearly, but finding threads that bind what can feel like disparate parts together. I also possess a deeply sensitive and intense personality (shout out to strong Scorpio placements), so I find that poetry in particular has been helpful in communicating my emotions without having to fear hyperbole. As far as compulsion, I've recently been relearning how to center myself as a motivator instead of outside sources (the need for representation, competitive deadlines, living up to an imagined ideal, etc). It's a slower process, but I think it's been necessary in forming a healthy relationship to my art in a hypercapitalist system that emphasizes production for production's sake. I want to be moved by a flow, not caught by a current.
Describe your work in five words.
Blasian confessions but mostly feelings.
What are some of your artistic influences/inspirations?
First and foremost my mother, who had to set aside painting for a long time in order to raise me but never lost her love for it and raised me with regular museum visits. Watching her relationship to her creativity, how it metamorphosed and reincarnated, has been a crucial roadmap for navigating my own dry spells as well as given me permission to follow multiple artistic outlets over time. As a queer Blasian woman survivor I would be lost without Staceyann Chin's fiercely unapologetic words to guide me and remind me I do not have to be all things at once. I'm also constantly awed by one of my closest friends, William Evans, whose work continues to challenge me to be vulnerable and honest even in the face of my worst fears. Just a few of many but truly some of the most important.
My Depression Reads Our Horoscope
Today, Mercury is in retrograde
Mars is in retrograde
Everything is in retrograde
just for you.
Jupiter has crossed into your House of Insecurities. Lucky girl.
You know that Jupiter expands everything it touches. There is
no sun today. The moon has settled into your fourth house
with the brown siding on the hill where the bus dropped you off
alone every evening of kindergarten. Saturn lives in all your houses
simultaneously. Saturn will not be moving out or paying rent.
Expect all sixty-two of his estranged moons to send cheap
Father’s Day cards they only half-skimmed. Venus and Neptune
are in opposition so dating may feel like a den of hands.
Pluto will trigger an overdraft fee. The serpent’s head Rahu
appears in your House of Self while the serpent’s tail Ketu
lingers in your House of Relationships. This year you can
anticipate an ouroboros. The source of your dreams is Uranus.
Burn sage as though it were an effective cleanse. Burn the Father’s
Day cards. Your fourth house burned down and you didn’t
even know. Lucky girl. Mercury will be out of retrograde soon.
Conversation in Transit
One quarter is enough
to say xi muoi so that
the Vietnamese friend
does not correct my
syllable shuffle but
rather reminisces on
dried plum pits in
porridge, a gift for
the sick. With this
I think grits. It’s not
so different. While we
talk he does not inspect
my eye slant or ask
through which side my
tradition passes as though
these tastebuds were
tributary, my birthright
a stream. I (who have
barely steamed a dozen
bowls of rice to my name,
once refuser of language
lessons) am no halfbreed
here—right now, in the
doorway of some
He recalls watching
his cousins’ appetite
dry up, eating rice only
for its white. He says
thank you without saying
thank you. I am at least
enough to know he means cám ơn.