A Sudden Painful Joy (How I Am)

It is May now, & we are nearly halfway through 2017, which astounds & tickles me. This time of year is rain on windows & sudden sun at the moments we least expect it, clouds trickling in & out at whim. We are transitioning between the hot & rainy seasons here in Singapore, all these shades of fickle-tender wonder.

This is how I am.

Half Mystic is gearing up for our third issue, around the theme of nocturne. Issue III is full of so much shadow, but also - somehow, in the oddest & loveliest & most unexpected places - light. I am thankful every day for how much this small journal & its hardworking team & contributors are teaching me, & I hope that you too might let it into your life this summer. I would be so delighted to send it to you for sweet-sticky summer nights ahead.

This is how I am:

Anxious but well. In love with so much I do not understand how to put into words. This feeling terrifies me, & I think perhaps that is why I must hold onto it.

I am so pleased to share that the gorgeous Euonia Review published three of my poems.They are pieces that you have probably read before if you are not new to my small corner of the internet - "Lovesong to the Coming Storm", "Quell", & "The Sun's First Gift to Her Lover" - but before now they did not have a home beyond the blog, & I think this one is a beautiful place to keep them for always. Have a read, if you are so inclined.

My baby sister has gotten into brush calligraphy. She is astonishingly talented at it, & my engineer parents who cannot tell Picasso from Plath from Kahlo from Kafka now have a poet daughter & an artist daughter. I have a feeling this is not what they thought they were signing up for when they had children. ;)

I did an interview with my dear friend Michelle Tudor for The Wilds. Here is where you may take a look. It is short, but, I hope, worth the read.

Something I believe more than anything, deep in the bones where the soul lives: this world can & will & must get better. We are nothing & nowhere without that belief, so I will not let it go.

Related, a blog post I adore, shared with me by a beautiful Shadows of Cats reader: "I must remember that my track record for surviving bad days is 100%."

This is how I am:

My tiny film SUPERNOVA is out now, was shortlisted for a film festival, & is garnering so many stunning reviews from those who have allowed it into their lives. (From Debra: "It's a masterpiece." From Kaylin: "I've been following you since 2014 and I can safely say this is the most beautiful thing you've created for your audience, ever. I watch it over and over." Please excuse me while I cry.) Lydia Eileen wrote a review/essay of the film on the Half Mystic blog that is far kinder than I may ever deserve, & Kimberly Hoyos of The Light Leaks did a small interview with & profile of me as a writer & actress in celebration of the film's release. This creation that means so much to me is reaching hands across the world that hold it soft & true. For that I am so grateful.

I have been taking many long walks lately, sometimes with Hachii & sometimes without. The rain comes & goes. My chest aches with sadness, but even still it feels good to breathe in with no promise or obligation of anything else.

A bit of bright news: I received first place in the high school poetry category of the University of Virginia Writer's Eye competition, with a new lil poem called "So, Stranger". Also: I received the editor's choice award in the 2017 Brain Mill Press Student Poetry Contest for my poem "When My First Boyfriend Learned I was on Anti-Psychotics, He Laughed & Told Me He Always Suspected I was Crazier than I Let On" (which will be shared on Six Impossible Things very soon!), & I was a finalist in the same contest with my poem "Dream Sequence". Such a joy & honour.

Two things that have made me laugh (full-on-belly-ache-little-aftershock-giggle laugh, the best kind): math problems for English majors & the one sentence that makes every book better.

This is how I am:

Trying to be kinder.

This is how I am:

My baby sister's foray into brush calligraphy has rekindled my own interest in typography in all of its forms. This essay on the subject is absolutely fascinating; I could not recommend it enough.

Currently I am reading Emma Donoghue's chilling, swerving novel Room, as well as the utterly flawless latest issues of a few old favourite literary magazines - Issue 8 of Wildness by Platypus Press & the May 2017 issue of Thrush poetry journal. Recently watched: the documentary Minimalism (dir. Matt D'Avella, 2015) & the classic film One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (dir. Miloš Forman, 1975). Alas, I did not greatly enjoy either despite their generally high reviews, so I am hopeful my next watch will be a bit better. Listening to this lil playlist - which is slightly all over the place, but at least filled with honesty.

"Quarter-moons. Violets. 1960s French pop songs." I did an interview with Black Lawrence Press' Sapling newsletter on the creation & curation of Half Mystic; you can subscribe to the newsletter right here to have a read.

Some days it is hard to remember self-care, but I have been focusing recently on eating three meals a day & drinking eight glasses of water & sleeping before 11pm. It is simple & (in a funny blue-soaked sort of way) healing.

A few lovely destinations around the web... noise machines to calm the anxious among us; a beautiful way to make a difference with your everyday purchases; gorgeous traffic light artwork; a short film that made me cry unabashedly in front of my computer screen.

"I believe that, in a world that consistently pushes us to toughen up & sharpen our edges, the truest defiance is in softness." I did an interview with the wonderful people of Cicada magazine, & I must admit that I am still pinching myself. Cicada was such an inspiration to me as a child & played an enormous role in shaping the writer I am today, & to be featured by them is a dream come true. Read my interview here.

People are so beautiful in so many ways, & some of those ways are foreign, & that does not make them any less beautiful. I am trying to notice that. To remember it.

Do you ever read something that makes your soul let out a deep sigh, as if it has found something real & shining that understands it completely? This quote from T.S. Eliot did that for me recently: “This is one moment, / But know that another / Shall pierce you with a sudden painful joy.”

I can think of no greater privilege than to keep searching for sudden painful joys. Even through the sadness & the anxiety & all those fogs.

This is how I am:

Yesterday I went out for a walk just as the sun was setting, & I stood on the sidewalk & watched all of the old men doing tai chi in the field across from my house, the small children falling over each other & discovering their own souls, the dogs sniffing street signs, the runners inhabiting tiny pulse-pounding galaxies, the sky roiling & singing & turning inside out to find a name for itself, & I breathed it all in, & I thought to myself: the universe is so large & I am so small. And for the first time in a long time, that thought brought me not fear but wonder.

So: this is how I am.

And you?