Thursday, September 19, 2019

Stephanie Chang : a writing day in three confessions

Frankly, the writing rooster rises at 4:27am.

I don’t mean to write so late—I never do. I feel like I’ve woken up from a long dream. It’s been exactly two weeks since I returned from Gambier, Ohio. Two weeks I haven’t brushed my teeth in a hurry to class and crushed an ant on the tiles of my Kenyon College dorm bathroom. The days move through molasses, now. Instead of churning out scrawled page after page, I find myself starting the “writing day” during a ripple of morning. The poem will emerge from a yellow thick, crawling across my windowsill or in the margins of my SAT Reading prep book. Beckon me with language that survives on attention alone.

I can’t say I don’t want to give it attention. I’ll usually take the thought and file it into Word, play around with form and composition and imagery and extended metaphor until the poem has practically birthed itself. I confess to refusing to let it marinate overnight. It’s a blessing and student’s curse; I get a lot of writing done. When the poem asks to be written, I’m obliged to write it—especially because I feel like every “good” poem I write will be the last. Like there’s some magical juice that can run out forever.

So I confess to screwing up my sleep schedule—the most common (can you blame us?) sin of Generation Z. The day starts caffeinated. The day: reluctant but satisfactory. The day is purple peeking over the condo-infested skyline of Richmond, BC. I love/hate/revere those concrete bodies. They’re always looking out for me, pitying these hands. My hands are hovering over my laptop (again, at such an hour!). The laptop that’s desperate for a battery replacement.

I note this down:
o   schedule an appointment at the apple store
o   let A know your availabilities for coaching debate this year
o   open ur math prep book already!!1!
o   finish that online economics course sigh
o   DONT keep checking submittable


Summer’s got my back. I wake at noon (something I could never imagine doing outside of July and August) and find take-out Cantonese meals on the kitchen counter. My dad always picks up food for my sister and I from Parker Place, a modest Asian shopping mall and food court. I often imagine the place buzzing with Hong Kongese grandmas and impromptu Mahjong games and my dad strolling in as heads turn to greet his predestined arrival to order the usual.

I think I ought to write a poem about that. I jot this down too.

As I eat, my fingers fly across keys. My dad tells me to put away the laptop, but won’t talk to my sister and I anyways, if we did. I don’t blame him; I can’t. I’m pre-occupied with watching for shards of glass as I tread the shoreline of an old poem about Anna May Wong, the first Chinese-American Hollywood actress. My sister watches Korean popstars dazzle a faceless audience on her screen. Sometimes, the writing day starts like this: calm, pacing comparable to ankles in honey. I don’t want to romanticize it for you. I am but seventeen, the god of my own writing days, the clock hand grasping every hour without knowing where to end.


In the fall, my writing turns 1) melancholy and 2) sporadic. I’m in my final year of high school, at long last. This year, I have two or so study periods at school, times when my writing “day” has the potential to take flight, following me home via the Google Docs iOS app. The poem I may conceive (or fetus half-resembling poetry) sleeps in my laptop for hours, typically beside a calculus textbook, the rustling of equations lulling it to the back of my thoughts. It’s months like September and October where poetry is my weapon of choice for procrastination. Much to my mom’s dismay, some of my best poems start when I should have started a history paper instead.

So the writing day will start in my school library/my dining table beside the Pocky/the girls’ bathroom/a no-music car-ride home/after-school debate practice.

Nevertheless, I get things done. Art gets made. Grades are assigned, and now more than ever, I find myself wondering how much time I’ll have a year from now to write. Where in the world I’ll be writing to you from.

Stephanie Chang is a high school senior from Richmond, BC. Her poetry appears or is forthcoming in The Kenyon Review, Penn Review, Adroit Journal, Diode Poetry Journal, Up the Staircase Quarterly, and others. This past summer, she attended the Kenyon Young Writers Workshop. She currently reads for Muzzle Magazine. Stephanie is the daughter of immigrants from Hong Kong and Taiwan.

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