Remembering Voice

Yesterday, I found myself reciting this poem out loud in front of my bathroom mirror:

an ounce (c) O. Ayes, RHINO

My upcoming trip home is helping me revisit some of the cultural issues I’d focused on in my first manuscript. My contributor’s note for this poem read:

Being a Filipino immigrant, I wrote “an ounce” to highlight my insecurities with both my native language and American English, how I inadvertently neglected the former during my adolescent years in the U.S. so that when I returned home at the age of 19, even a simple word, paa, was erroneous. I wanted to see my guilt on paper for still fearing an exposed cover (in America), an identifiable accent—mainly the f/p and v/b sounds.

Reciting this yesterday, randomly, felt powerful. I’ve read this poem numerous times–at readings, to myself–and I appreciate the sound from my lungs every time. This was written fairly early on in my MFA program, and I can definitely feel the influence of my performance poetry days. I miss my genuine, simple sentimentality.

My current manuscript feels more cerebral, but it’s far from non-sentimental. I’m still calibrating my voice, in these languages, in these poems.

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