David Ly discusses inspirations, metaphors, and more in “Mythical Man”

The debut collection is a vivid and vulnerable exploration of identity

SFU alumnus, David Ly, reflects on what led to his new book’s publication. PHOTO: Erin Flegg Photography

By: Michelle Young, News Editor

In April 2020, Vancouver-based writer and SFU alumnus David Ly published his debut poetry collection, Mythical Man. During an email interview with The Peak, Ly shared his creative process.

Reminiscing on his experience at SFU, Ly noted that poetry did not always interest him. “I tried so long to avoid poetry in my Creative Writing, English, and World Literature courses.” He added that when he did take a poetry class, it pushed him out of his comfort zone. 

“I used to write for The Peak and I remember one time interviewing Renée Sarojini Saklikar about her poetry book Children of Air India. I think interviewing a poet helped me get into poetry and grow as a writer too,” Ly shared.

Although Mythical Man is Ly’s first full-length book, he is no stranger to the world of publishing. His previous work, a chapbook titled Stubble Burn, serves as a prequel to Mythical Man. Ly said the chapbook “solely revolved around my experiences as a gay Asian man with online culture and how that impacted my perception of who I was.” Mythical Man expands on these ideas by adding elements of fantasy and blending them into Ly’s examination of identity. “I drew inspiration from classic myths where the characters underwent extreme magical transformations,” he explained. 

Mythical Man mixes the magical with the mundane in pieces like “Finally” and “Walking Together At The End of The World.” As described by Ly, the collection explores “mythology and how that informs our perception of men.” 

“A myth — in my opinion, at least — is a story that is constantly changing; much like what my idea of what a person can be,” Ly said. He added that while writing, he would question what makes up “the notion of masculinity” and would draw upon his experiences in online dating. 

Ly’s poetry also uses metaphors that explore relationship dynamics, specifically that of predator and prey. He writes, “Have you noticed how sharp and sparkly / your talons are in the starlight? / Let me lick them clean once you’ve finished / stirring up my sweetest and most tender parts.” 

“The prey and predator metaphor really symbolizes temptation to me, I think. There’s a poem in the book called Hunt and it’s one of my favourites because there is this feeling that the narrator is speaking to a predator-like beast in a very loving and protective way, but there also exists an underlying fear.”

These metaphors are a sharp juxtaposition to poems like “Transit Romance Guy,” and “I Finally Learned How To Love Myself,” which lean away from the mythical and deeper into life experiences: “Maybe he thought sticky rice was cute / to say after we fucked, / but I was hoping for an experience / where we could exist beyond an expression / that describes two Asians together.” 

Mythical Man blends fantasy with morality and sensuality with hardship to weave together a collection that is vulnerable, honest, and rich. Next, Ly is working on another poetry collection, aimed for publication in Fall 2022. “I think it’ll be less gay, but just as magical — if not more. It’s a fun one,” he shared.

When asked about advice for emerging LGBTQIA+ writers, Ly said, “Write what you want to read and see in the world! Also, as much as it is important to write about our experiences as they are just as valid as anyone else’s, never feel pressured to write about LGBTQIA content where you feel like you have to put yourself in the spotlight [if] you don’t feel comfortable doing so.” 

Mythical Man can be purchased directly from the publisher, Massy Books, or from Iron Dog Books. Connect with Ly @dlylyly on Twitter.