I interviewed myself (or, a book interviewed me)
I'm reading How Poetry Can Change Your Heart after finding it in an art bookstore in downtown Honolulu. Its interior pages are pink, like Elle Woods' résumé.
The first section poses questions for reflection. Here are my answers:
1. What were you raised to appreciate?
Education, books, time spent together, travel, tea with sugar and milk, high ceilings, dinner as a family, competition, music in all its varieties, the simplicity of sitting alone in a dark room, fire pits, concerts, living life on my own terms, nice cars, roller coasters
2. In what ways, if any, was poetry valued in the house where you grew up?
My mom collected newspaper clippings of Precious Moments, which always had a short saying.
My parents didn't read much, but they encouraged me to.
My dad loved music and would teach me about bands, genres, music history, etc.
My mom also collected Nightmare Before Christmas memorabilia, and I had the entire soundtrack memorized.
I fell in love with No Doubt's Tragic Kingdom by age 5. I'd cry when I'd sing “Don't Speak.”
3. In what unique, amusing, or special ways did your family interact with language?
My dad loved old school hip hop (although it was contempory for him).
My mom taught me Tagalog words and sometimes Spanish, too.
She also let me answer the phones at her work sometimes, and I learned to speak in an “office” voice.
There were a lot of accents in my family, from Filipino accents to East coast accents to Chicano accents and more.
I developed an appreciation for hymns through attending church.
4. What is your favorite song lyric of all time?
There are so many, but what comes to mind first is actually a song title: “Seasick, Yet Still Docked” by Morrissey. I find the phrase allegorical to all kinds of moments throughout my life.
5. If you were to explain poetry to a toddler, how would you describe it?
I'd rather show than tell. Toddlers are especially receptive, and no concept is needed when they can simply experience poetry instead.
6. Look around. What are the five most beautiful things you see?
i. My bookshelf full of treasures and endless inspiration
ii. My yucca plant, Yuko, who is strong and healthy
iii. My body, which has gotten me this far and still keeps going
iv. A large window through which I can sometimes see the Golden Gate Bridge
v. My partner's plethora of music equipment and the gateways it opens for him
7. The five most heartbreaking?
i. A meditation shrine grown dusty
ii. Plain white walls that make home feel so temporary
iii. Canvases still wrapped in plastic
iv. Books I haven't opened in longer than I can remember
v. My old poetry and the void of what I haven't written in the past few years
8. What is a topic you could spend an easy hour talking about?
Everything I want to do next
9. What in the universe are you most curious about?
How to push the boundaries of the human experience via meditation and spiritual practices
10. What is the one-sentence version of your life story?
11. What is the tiniest, yet most important, detail of your life?
I hate superlatives, but if I must, it's that I do better with less—or nothing even. Poetry was the art form that required the least in terms of a physical medium, which is largely why it spoke to me. It needed no tools other than a pen and paper.
12. Where is the beauty in the last thing that made you cry?
That love can literally change a person forever—there is nothing more authentic than pure love, which is never cliché or trite.
13. Where was the grief hiding in your last moment of bliss?
Grief is easy. It's draped beneath the veneer of reality. It's always within reach, nearly omnipresent.
14. Why is your favorite season your favorite season?
It's the time when I feel the most encumbered, like I can be anything, do anything.
15. What is your favorite word and why?
Right now, it's “open.”
It has taught me so much, and it's a one-word instruction manual for life.
16. What was the most riveting conversation you have ever had?
Experiences beyond words in meditation practices with others. But were actual words involved? I'm not certain.
17. Do you remember the last time someone put words to something you couldn't easily express?
Every time I read a T.S. Eliot poem
18. What is your earliest fear, and what is your most recent?
They are the same and it's a fear of my wanting' not being met, especially acceptance.
19. Describe the last time you were awestrck.
I've made it a practice to look for awe in the everyday, so often it's a simple as looking at the sky or a child or waking up from a dream.
A big one recently, however, was while swimming with a manta ray in Hawaii. I was directly above it, ou bodies parallel, looking down at it swimming gracefully past. I extended my arms, mirroring it, and felt a massive opening of beauty and hope and awe. I tried to follow it, but it moved to fast to keep up. I never swam so hard in my life.
20. If a poet were to write about one story from your life, what story would you have them tell?
My whole life is one story, and I'd want them to tell it all but tell it simply—the distilled version about what it all meant, whether it was something or nothing at all.
21. Why don't you tell it?
Seems like a trick question.