The Writing University conducts is a series of interviews with writers while they are in Iowa City participating in the International Writing Program's fall residency. We sit down with authors to ask about their work, their process and their descriptions of home.
Today we are speaking with Bayasgalan BATSUURI Баясгалан Батсуурийн, a poet and translator from Mongolia.
1. Do you have a plan or project in mind for your time at the residency?
I am planning to work on my short story collection. It will be based on my own life experiences and memories mostly, a bit like an autobiography, but I will use a variety of creative methods to fictionalize them as much as possible. I hope Iowa will give me an opportunity to look back into my memories and life in Mongolia from outer perspectives. And, I think the inevitable nostalgia of living in a foreign environment for a while would be very helpful to write such kind of book.
2. What does your daily practice look like for your writing? Do you have a certain time when you write? Any specific routine?
I am a night owl, indeed. I am very creative from 9 P.M to 4 A.M. During the daytime, I connect with other people, read books and do researches for my works.
3. What are you currently reading right now? Are you reading for research or pleasure?
Because of my recent translation project of an anthology of short stories, I have been reading short stories from around the world for last two years. For instance, yesterday I read a very beautiful short story named “The Great Wall” by Ismail Kadare, a story related to my ancestors’ historical relationship with China. Although the end of the story was bit odd for a Mongolian reader like me, its main point was very impressive and I am very curious to know what Mongolians would say if I translate the story and let them read.
4. What is one thing the readers and writers of Iowa City should know about you and your work?
For people who don’t know much about Mongolia, my country could be seen as a very exotic place. They usually ask me questions like “Do you ride a horse to your work?”, “How many sheep does your family have?” or “Do you still worship Genghis Khan?”. Of course, I can relate to those kinds of questions since I grew up with my nomad grandparents, helping to herd their cattle in the high mountains of Western Mongolia. Even though nomadism is still one of the main lifestyles of my people and its culture is precious to us, every modern Mongolians can’t be described by this stereotype of seeing them as fully nomads. As a result of effective urbanization of last centuries, Mongolians are dividing by their lifestyles, so by their values in life too. Nowadays, differences between city and country people growing more and more, but I think of myself as a good representation of both the groups since I grew up in the countryside and then have lived for a decade in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia. So, the theme of transiting from nomadic culture to settled culture could be found from my works noticeably.
5. Tell us a bit about where you are from -- what are some favorite details you would like to share about your home?
The fact that Mongolia is a democratic country and the awareness of defending the values of democracy is very strong among our youths are the most favourite things I like to mention about my country.
Thank you Bayasgalan!
Bayasgalan BATSUURI Баясгалан Батсуурийн (poet, translator; Mongolia) has published 12 books of translation from English to Mongolian. Her English-language poetry collection Rain of the 13th Month came out in 2009; her poetry is widely anthologized. The founder of the publishing house Tagtaa, which aims to broaden gender representation in literature, in 2017 she was named Best Cultural Professional by the Minister of Education, Culture, and Science. She participates courtesy of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State.