Side A Visual Poetry: “Autoimmunity” by Allison Thung

*Ed.’s Note: click images to view larger sizes.[1]

Mini-interview with Allison Thung

HFR: Can you share a moment that has shaped you as a writer (or continues to)?

AT: A moment that particularly stands out to me is when I stumbled into the world of contemporary literary journals, discovered a category of publications (present company included) that not only accepted but celebrated unconventional work, and realized that the question I needed to be asking myself wasn’t what poetry should look like; but rather, what poetry could look like. Encountering work that broke rules and leaned into unusual subject matter helped me move past that self-doubt that I “wasn’t really a poet” because of how I wrote or what I wrote about, and discover my own voice and style, both of which continue to evolve.

HFR: What are you reading?

AT: I’m cycling through a couple of books, including Diane Seuss’ frank: sonnets and Kimberly Nguyen’s Here I Am Burn Me. Plus anything that catches my attention on social media—I follow many brilliant literary journals, poets, and writers, and I love reading the work they share.

HFR: Can you tell us what prompted “Autoimmunity”?

AT: If I’m not entirely focusing on something, my mind has the tendency to drift into this space where it attempts to soundtrack my reality, responding to words that sound like, or circumstances reminiscent of, lyrics. After three doctor appointments in the span of two weeks, the drives to and from which spent copiously avoiding sun exposure because sunlight is a trigger for my autoimmune disorder, I found myself humming the first verse of Hozier’s “Sunlight” (“I would shun the light / Share in evenings cool and quiet / Who would trade that hum of night for sunlight, sunlight, sunlight”) over and over. When it didn’t stop even after a week, it became clear I needed to respond to it in my work.

So that turned into “II. Photosensitive,” although at the time, it was just “Photosensitive,” because I thought it would be a standalone piece. “I. First Instincts Post-Diagnosis” and “III. Regrowth” came into being that same day as two more standalone pieces, when it occurred to me just how much I enjoyed that creative process, in the midst paying tribute to my favorite singer-songwriter. But it wasn’t until about three weeks later when I relooked the work and figured I wanted a more cohesive narrative running across all three pieces that it became “Autoimmunity” as it is here.

HFR: What’s next? What are you working on?

AT: I’m working on my debut poetry chapbook, and exploring concepts for a microchap. Beyond, I’ve also been dabbling in visual poetry and other forms of hybrid work.

HFR: Take the floor. Be political. Be fanatical. Be anything. What do you want to share?

AT: Political: Protect queer and trans people and rights. Protect abortion rights. Wear a mask. I don’t think these should be political opinions, but I guess that’s the world we live in.

Fanatical: Listen to all of Hozier’s glorious music. Cats are so affectionate—they just express their love differently from dogs, and on their own terms. If you haven’t tried dim sum, what are you doing with your life?

Anything: If your fruit tastes fizzy or spicy, it may be fermenting, and you should probably stop eating it.

Allison Thung is a poet and project manager from Singapore. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Chestnut Review, ANMLY, Maudlin House, Lumiere ReviewEmerge Literary Journal, and elsewhere. Find her on Twitter @poetrybyallison or at

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Note: Punctuations and capitalizations not within the source text have been included to reflect the poet’s intentions. In “First Instincts Post-Diagnosis,” “u” from the source text has also been translated as “you” in the alt text.


I. First Instincts Post-Diagnosis

A blackout of “Jackie and Wilson” by Hozier

Red eye tonight to nowhere, just in time to save me. I could escape into a dream or what’s left of me—or better yet, into you.

II. Photosensitive

A blackout of “Sunlight” by Hozier

I shun the sun, fierce and burning. Decisive pain foreknown; colours fade slowly. My sun—I miss your light.

III. Regrowth

A blackout of “Would That I” by Hozier

Hair like air, once in withdrawal, felled to fight the fret. But tonight, it’s alright. At last—soft and loose again as long ago.  

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