I was born in Okinawa, Japan, and came to the U.S. when I was almost two years old. I grew up in Los Angeles, Chinatown, where my parents owned a clothing and souvenir store. I spent a lot of time inside the store since my parents were overprotective and didn’t allow me to go out on my own. There was an attic room in the store, where I read, wrote, made collages, and practiced monologues. I was always very creative. I went to Abraham Lincoln High School, which was a ten minute drive from the store. My mom picked me up from school every day. She also encouraged me to engage in the arts, including drama and dancing. I attended the University of Southern California and graduated with a degree in Creative Writing.
What is the greatest thing about the place you call home?
I live in Pico Rivera, which is neither my hometown nor my first choice when it comes to where I would like to live. But since I am here I will try to focus on what is positive about it. Pico Rivera has a very good Parks and Recreation department, where I work as a volunteer in the summer serving free meals to kids in the neighborhood. It also has a beautiful main library, which was renovated a few years ago. The library is my haven. I sometimes go there to write.
What turns you on creatively?
Nature turns me on creatively, since I write a lot of short form poetry. It’s interesting for me to say that, since I didn’t think I could write about nature until recent years. I grew up in urban areas, where there weren’t a lot of natural phenomena. I wrote mostly about my personal experiences when I was younger. Writing haiku encouraged me to pay attention to the flowers, the birdsongs, the sun and the moon, etc. It helps me to appreciate small life forms, like a snail, a spider, a falling leaf, for example.
What is your favorite word, and can you use it in a poetic sentence?
Some of my favorite words are associated with the moon – moonglow, moonbeam, moondust, moonshine, moonlight, etc. A haiku I wrote recently:
evening rendezvous I’m all yours wrapped in moonbeams.
What is your pet peeve?
One of my pet peeves is people who don’t sleep. There’s a long story behind that. I’ve lived with a lot of roommates all my life. I’ve had roommates who work through the night, sing through the night, dance through the night, keeping me awake with their lights on. That’s not how I function. I do better in life when I eat well and get good rest. I wrote a poem called “Ode to Insomniacs,” published by poetic diversity, which is all about that.
Another pet peeve of mine is people who lie, whether it be on social media, on job applications, or between friends. I wrote a poem called “Pathological,” published by Fevers of the Mind Poetry Digest, which is all about that. I am an honest person. To me, honesty is the best policy most of the time, unless it’s absolutely necessary to tell a white lie.
What defines Jackie Chou?
I’m a free-spirited person who always tries to do my best though I’m not perfect. Since I have both gained and lost many things in my life, I don’t define myself by those things. I’m talking about my identity, my education, my career, my success in school, and even my sanity. I am now just taking things one day at a time, avoiding words like “should” and “could have.”
Jackie Chou is a poet of free verses and Japanese short form poetry who has work forthcoming in Mollyhouse Lit and Cyan: an Anthology of Confessional Poetry. Her poem "Cycle of a Tree" was nominated for a Pushcart by Highland Park Poetry.