Bestselling author and world-renowned poet Lang Leav has become a household name in contemporary literature. Her simple yet deeply resonating poetry which centers on love and all its intricacies, effectively cemented her into the status of social media sensation. But despite her undeniable fame, she chooses to live a grounded life with her 15-year-old stepson, and her partner, Michael Faudet, who’s also a poet.
Her latest collection, Love Looks Pretty on You, features new poetry and prose that tackles not just relationship with others, but relationship with the self. We sat down with Lang to talk about this, and what it means to be a poet in this age.
Your works almost exclusively focus on love, a subject most would consider difficult and complicated. Would you consider yourself an expert on love?
I don’t think anyone is an expert on love to be honest. I think we’re humans. And, you know, we go through experiences, in all facets of love. And your job as a writer is really to be this, all knowing person. It’s just really to write about your version of events, how you feel about love. And there’s no right or wrong answer, when it comes to love. I think everyone has their own unique versions and experience. And each of those experiences are valid.
All your books have done really well. Was there any pressure to churn out another best-seller?
I mean, I suppose. You put a book out and you have high hopes for it, like any other author. So I don’t know if it’s necessarily pressure. It’s more of a feeling of hope. You hope it sells well. But it’s done really well so far. I think it’s probably my fastest selling books to date. It debuted on number two on the Straits Times in Singapore. Now, it’s the number number one for two consecutive weeks, which has been really fine.
What do you think it means for poetry to be on the number one?
It’s amazing, because I remember when Love and Misadventure came out in 2013, and no one has heard of poetry. And I was touring and a lot of the people that I was working with, they were desperately trying to convince their bosses. I was saying, “We got to get more of these books, poetry is going to be the next big thing.” And I think the industry took a while to catch up. [But] as we know, today, the movement just completely exploded. The way poetry has been brought back into our consciousness again, and we’ve got a whole generation of young kids actively engaging in poetry, I think it’s really wonderful.
What would you say to your critics, those who discredit your work because they think it’s so different from traditional poetry?
See, most of the time, I think 99 percent of my so-called critics such as haters on the internet, they absolutely have no idea what they’re talking about when it comes to what is classical [poetry]. A lot of the classical poets had the same criticisms taped on to them. There was the beat poetry movement in the ‘60s, and people were just giving the same criticism. And these poets, [like] Ginsberg and Bukowski, they wrote poetry that resonated with their time, but they had the same kind of criticisms. And I think only time will tell.
And as for listening to criticism, I think the most important thing about being a writer is deciding [whose] voices you will listen to. It’s best you listen to someone who actually knows what they’re talking about. And I’m very fortunate that my agent Al Zuckerman was a professor at Yale. So I really take on board what he says, and his advice. That’s who I am more likely to listen to.
What makes Love Looks Pretty on You different from your other poetry collections?
Well, it feels a little bit more grown up, if that makes sense. I think what’s happening is my books [are] growing up as I do. [I’m] going into this stage in my life where I’m sort of mimicking where my mother was. And taking on this motherhood-wife role, I’ve been thinking about juggling those two things without having to compromise anything, And [this book shows that] that’s a very important lesson for women. They can do what they want, they can create their life exactly how they want to create it. I don’t think there’s a set thing that you’ve got to adhere to. You don’t have to get married if you don’t want to. You don’t have to have children. You can have a career. You can do anything you want.
I did notice that this title seems more positive, as opposed to your previous works which were more melancholic. Why the shift in tone?
Well, I think it’s reflecting on the last 10 years of my life. In the beginning, [when I was just] starting my relationship with Michael, he lived in a different country, and he had a child. It was just something that was completely unknown to me. I had completely no idea what I was in for. So it was a real leap of faith for me. SoI suppose you can liken it to a farmer sowing the seeds of their lives 10 years ago, and [this book] is what’s grown from it. I just feel this real sense of happiness and achievement, that I’ve got this beautiful family I absolutely adore. Just to have that support to be able to flourish and have a career and have them support me, it’s just a wonderful place today. And I suppose a lot of that positivity reflected in the collection.
In terms of the writing process for this book, was there any difference too?
I think that a book comes to you in a way, it’s not that you go out and look for it. And the way this came together was quite magical. I was writing these pieces and they seem to be a whole. All these pieces seem to have aligned. There’s a real narrative that moves through it. And that’s the first time I’ve actually done that with a poetry collection. So if you read it from beginning to the end, it almost reads like snippets from a novel.
What’s next for you?
I’m actually working on my second novel, I hope it will be released later this year and it’s about a girl—an aspiring poet who finds fame. it’s not based off me. But of course, I will be using some of the insights that I’ve picked up over the last few years and funneling that into this project, which I’m very excited about.
If you want to have your books signed by Lang, catch her on her signing tour with National Book Store this Feb. 23 and 24. Visit this page for more details.