Friday, April 1, 2016

Ask About When | #NaPoWriMo

For the next 30 days on my YouTube channel Loving the Language of Literacy, I will be posting an original poem of mine along with behind the scenes knowledge of my inspiration, the creative process, and any other lessons / tips & tricks I have to offer. 

Ask About When

They ask me to bare the innerworkings of my mind
So that they may glimpse the generator,
The creator, Some kind of all-satisfying answer,
To the demands and prying eyes that come with age.

Yet what they should not be asking is
Why I say what I do
How I come up with the notions
Where this supposed wisdom is born

Those are easy.

#1. Because there is so much idiocy in this world
That frustration has become the motivation to speak
#2. Because someone or something else’s words
Have inspired ones of my own;
I am no original, but the culmination of
Trial, Error, and Observation
#3. Because I am just another marionette
Turned martyr, and remain as one of the few
That have learned to tug on my strings,

Yet no one has ever questioned the When.

If they think for one second of any day
That I have no filter
That I have not carefully
Calculated, Whittled, and Re-Sculpted
My words
Constantly gambling on every
Bat of an eyelash,
Fluctuation in frequency of tone,
Strike on the scoreboard that is
Their impression of me,

Then they are even more moronic than I had thought.

I used to be the girl
Whose only mar on a perfect record
Was due to the fact that I had been
Bursting to contribute my opinion
From gun control to the structure of the word purple
And then one day, I stayed long enough
To gauge their opinions of me
Those subtle eye rolls only apparent to
Everyone in the room except for myself
Those imperceptible exhalations of “that’s just Sofia,”

Now, in a new time, new place,
As a person whose definitions of the world have been
Through the laundry machine of time

I still don’t reveal what the answer is in slope intercept form
And wouldn’t dare unfurl my opinions on the 6 ‘o clock news

I guess that’s why they see me in the light that they do
As I have been in charge of every utterance of
Thought that has ever touched down on a page,

Maybe now they’ll realize that opening up means nothing
When those answers have always been there
And there are still less complicated questions to ask

Because I am only just Sofia.

——— Sofia Shohue Liaw

They ask me to undress the innerworkings of my mind
So that they may glimpse the generator,
The creator, Some kind of all-satisfying answer,
To the commands and prying eyes that come with age.

Yet what they shouldn’t be asking -
Why I say what I do
How I come up with them
Where this supposed wisdom is born

Those are easy.

#1. Because there is so much idiocy in this world
That frustration has become the motivation to speak
#2. Because someone or something else’s words
Have inspired ones of my own.
I am no original, but the culmination of
Trial, Error, and Observation
#3. Because I am just another marionette
Turned victim, and reman as one of the few
That have learned to tug on my strings

Yet no one has ever questioned the When.

If they think for one second of any day
That I have no filter
That I have not carefully
Calculated, Whittled, and Re-sculpted
My words
Constantly gambling on every
Bat of an eyelash,
Fluctuation in frequency of time,
Strike on the scoreboard that is
Their impression of me,
Then they are even more moronic than I had thought.

I used to be the girl
Whose only mar on a perfect record
Was due to the fact that I had been
Bursting to share and contribute my opinion
From gun control to the structure of the word purple
And then one day, I stayed long enough
To gauge their opinions of me
Those subtle eyeballs only apparent to
Everyone in the room except for myself
Those imperceptible exhalations of “that’s just Sofia”
Now, in a new time, new place,
As a person whose definitions of the world have been
Through the laundry machine of time

I still don’t reveal what the answer is in slope intercept form
And wouldn’t dare unfurl my opinions on the news

I guess that’s why they see me in the light that they do
As I have been in charge of every utterance of
Thought that has ever touched down on a page

Maybe now they’ll realize that opening up means nothing
When those answers have always been there
And there are still less complicated questions to ask.

Because I am only just Sofia.

The Creation of Ask About When 
This is an exact copy of the explanation I wrote in April of 2015 and handed in along with the rest of my poetry portfolio. My voice is a lot different even then and while some of the things I said are no longer true, they were at the time and that's the point of writing, to see how far we have come.

Ask About When is one of the few poems I have written and genuinely felt proud of from the moment of conception, which happened in the midst of Mr. K’s lesson (you can’t deny the muses when they strike), and throughout the lengthy revision process.

In a class discussion, Mr. K brought up the observation that the particular 2014/2015 class was the most closed-off of any he had encountered so far in his teaching career as well as his opinion that most of the poetry that had been submitted throughout the unit was mediocre at best. From the very first line, Ask About When is my own answer to his statement, on levels both as a student and a person, where I present the issue at hand, and then combat it, all while spiraling deeper into why this topic has so much personal meaning. It addresses the crippling part of my personality - the reluctance and actual fear of participating in class - that I have dealt with since 2nd grade.

There are two impressions of who Sofia is that influenced word choice in the second and third lines. The first being that I am a machine-like perfectionist (generator) and the second being that the words I speak and write are somehow insightful or intelligent sounding (creator). From the moment we are born, we are in a constant state of sensory overload accompanied with living that makes the commonplace person not as trusting and naive, which is what the first and fourth lines suggest, as I have been asked to put the way I think on display because people question my word.

The second and third stanzas cover the questions people have always asked, the ones that beat around the bush and don’t actually fulfill their inquiries. This is simply because if I’m willing to answer you, whether out of the need to impress or compassion, that is answer in and of itself.

The fourth stanza addresses the questions from the second in a more slam-poetry style and are some of the most important lines in the poem. In short, the only reason I seem “smart” is because I have realized that I have to play the game of life if my favor in I ever want to establish some sort of independence from others, but that doesn’t mean that I am any better or try to be.

The fifth and sixth stanzas are the funnel of the whirlpool as I delve deeper and deeper into my social anxiety that comes with participation in class as well as showcasing my personal snarkiness that ties back to my frustration with idiocy. Furthermore, it alerts readers of my self-awareness and lets them know of my best attempts to draw a favorable hand.

The seventh stanza is truly where I hit home as an explanation to what controls when I speak. In Kindergarten, I had perfect grades in every standard, both social and intellectual, except for the one concerning speaking out of turn. I had been a constant fireball of positive energy, continuously eager to learn and contribute my opinion. In 2nd grade, I became aware of my surroundings and the people around me, the fact that I wasn’t “normal,” and through the use of irony, lay my fear of judgement out on the table.

The eighth and ninth stanza attempts to portray the gap of both time and personality that sits between my New York and Californian lives. I had thought it would be different coming to a new school, but the fact of the matter is that I’m still afraid and my teachers have picked up on this as well.

The tenth stanza is my three line ode (even though I could have used 3,000 lines) to my passion for the written word and writing. As someone who considers themselves a poet (being good has absolutely nothing to do with the declaration), I love nothing more than being in control. I will tell anyone anything about myself through writing, but reader’s must remember that that is my own conscious decision to do so.

The ending to Ask About When is something I struggled with because I thought, “Well, I’ve written all of this and made some pretty bold statements. How the heck do I wrap this all up?” The classic ending designed to make readers think was the original cutoff for the poem. Upon a peer editor’s suggestion, I spun the poem’s conclusion into something I feel sums up (as well as continues to perplex) its message. I am just a teenage year old fangirl who is learning how to navigate the waters of young love and spends her free time running and making videos, who uses the written word as her currency through time, who is stubborn and passionate (which keeps things interesting for my teachers), and who moved to Syracuse in the first place because I lost my mom (yes, I know that’s a euphemism).

Lastly, I think Ask About When is my own angst-ridden teenager-y shout into the void that’s supposed to alert people (who actually cared to read this far into my portfolio) of the fact that I have a problem and am doing the best that I can to do deal with it. And I hope, 10 years from now when I’m digging through old school assignments and poetry (once I’m a New York Times Bestselling author, of course), that this will only be a time capsule of the person I am today.