Dissecting moments of truth through poetry.

David Ly (he/him) is an amazing poet and writer. He has recently released his first book of poetry, Mythical Man. It Gets Better Canada was able to speak with David about his poetry, writing poems that are raw and his experiences with publishing.

Collage image of David Ly
Congratulations on releasing Mythical Man! What was the experience like to release your sophomore book?

Thank you! It was really fantastic to have a lot of my work compiled into this collection that I felt really connected to. Writing it was kind of an experiment for myself to understand what poetry meant for me, and what it could do for me as a creative process to understand myself more. It was also my dream to release a book and it was surreal to have it happen; to have a publisher out there see something in my work. It was really validating to publish a poetry book when I never though I really understood what poetry was at the time.

In 2018, you did an interview with SAD mag and said that you “still don’t know what poetry is.” Has that changed since you have written your second book? What is your relationship to poetry now?

I think I know what poetry is until someone asks me! I would say overall that I know more about what poetry can be; that it doesn’t have to be this really convoluted piece of writing you get scared by. Right now, I still second-guess myself on what poetry is, though. But I think that’s because I’m even more critical on myself now after publishing a book. I’d have to say that my relationship to poetry right now would be one where I’m challenging myself to write in forms I’ve never had, experiment more on what my idea of a poem is, and to not repeat myself in my expressions of what I think poetry is.

Image of David Ly smiling

Write what you want to see more of in the world, not what you think someone wants to publish, and don’t be discouraged by rejections.

David Ly


How has diaspora overlapped with your experiences with the LGBTQ2+ community?

I think just the notion of being the other. Even within the 2SLGBTQ+ community, I’m still a person of colour and that came with a bunch of things to unpack (e.g. exotification, sexual racism, etc.). But even though I experienced all of those things, I eventually grew to realize I worth more than what others thought of me.

How has writing poetry helped with persevering and making it through hard moments in your life?

Strangely enough, even though my poems sometimes explore really intimate and hard scenarios (real or made-up), the closer I had to get to them in order to write about them, helped put some distance between me and the moments. It was like the more I wrote about them, the more I felt them drift further away and I didn’t need to be so close to them; didn’t need to dwell on them and how bad they made me feel anymore.

I love the lines, “David, you can be good. / You did try. You do try” It is a great mantra for many of us to remember to be kind to ourselves during a rough time. What was the journey like to get to a place where you know that turbulent times won’t last forever?

I just had to keep reminding myself that I’ve felt bad before, or was going through a rough time before, but I’m still here. A turbulent time always feels so immediate and long-lasting, but if I remember that the feeling isn’t new, it means that I have experienced it before (in another shape or form) and was able to make it out on the other side. I guess, every rough patch feels rough until you realize you’re still standing, probably because you’ve patched yourself up before from rough(er) times, even if it may not feel like it.

In your poems, a common topic is the rejection of normative ideas of manhood, what has that personal exploration of what manhood and masculinity meant to you?

It’s meant exactly that: that you can reject normative ideas of manhood and masculinity, that it is okay to be vulnerable, for example. Overall, it’s shown me that you don’t have to behave to prescribed notions of an identity, and you can carve your own.

Any personal advice for 2SLGBTQ+ youth who are struggling with their identity?

Not to rush finding out what your identity is. Spend lots of time being comfortable with just your company. Find music that resonates with you and books that you see yourself in.

I love the vivid imagery in your poems. When you’re creating poems that are raw and speak about topics such as racism within the queer community or struggles with toxic masculinity, what goes into the creative process of that? How does art help you dissect those moments?

It helps make it easier to talk about, I think. If I write a poem that ends up being emotionally raw, I think I naturally gravitate to writing it with vivid (sometimes fantasy-like imagery) to make it easier. I guess the story then sort of feels made-up, which in a way makes it easier for me to speak about very real things in it (if that makes sense). Writing poetry helps me dissect moments of racism or other heavy topics because then I can sort of hide behind the imagery, but at the same time be very truthful as well.

What advice do you have for queer up-and-coming writers looking to publish their book?

Write what you want to see more of in the world, not what you think someone wants to publish, and don’t be discouraged by rejections. I think so long as you stay true to what you intend your writing to do, someone along the way will see value and good in it.

What was the process like for publishing your poetry?

I think it’s been kind of an experiment for me to submit and try to be published. As mentioned earlier, I never knew what poetry was so I was writing / have been writing what I think is poetry. So, I guess I send poems out to be published as a means of asking, “Is this a poem?” This isn’t to say that rejections mean I am not writing poetry, but it just means I have more to work on to make stronger poems.

Follow David @divad.ly

Learn more about Mythical Man here.

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