February 2017: Stephanie Tom
Stephanie Tom is a high school student living in New York. She writes and serves as an editor for both her school newspaper and literary magazine. She has previously won a Gold Key from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards for her poetry, and her work has either appeared in or is forthcoming in Dear Damsels, Hypertrophic Literary, and Rising Phoenix Review, among other places. She is currently a poetry reader for Venus Magazine and Red Queen Literary Magazine, a blog correspondent for Sugar Rascals, and a magazine writer for Her Culture.
April mornings are for sweet tea in the window full of rain, so
the girl who's allergic to honey takes sugar in her tea instead.
She knows that when she fills the mug up halfway, it's not
half full or half empty, just twice as tall as it needs to be.
She knows how to think practically, like how to pinch the
bridge of your nose as you tilt your head up slows nosebleeds,
and how to drink lemon juice as an excellent way to practice
poker faces, and how to steady your voice by dreaming of voids.
She knows the boy around the corner who is allergic to sunlight and
collects light bulbs in an artificial attempt at reaching for warmth.
He knows how to think rationally, about the difference between
eyebrow to eye ratios, about seven different ways to say a name,
about the thirty different meanings behind a smile.
He's spoken of memories like wastelands before, post-apocalyptic
deserts where every man knows a rattlesnake and every flower
is poison because there is nothing beautiful left in that world.
She mentions that the most fragile things in life are the most deadly
and that a flower doesn't need to be poisonous for people to
think it is anyways. Names carry enough damage themselves.
They sat at the fringes of the universe one night, stargazing together,
renaming the stars and telling each other secrets that
the sky promised it would never share with anybody else.
She told him that the room was always going to be twice as full
as he expected, and that the moon in the sky would always be
twice as big as anyone could ever see at once, and that meant that
there was never going to be a person in the world that told the truth
when they said that they knew everything there was to know about you.
He told her that people loved nothing more in the world than
the numerous ways they could grasp at straws, or the number of ways
they could lie to themselves, and that all of the people she could ever
meet in life were all hurting, whether they knew it or not.
In the silence between them, they could see a hint of the moon
behind cloud cover and the smoke of midnight.
The girl found herself wondering about lemon juice and light bulbs,
flowers and full rooms, found herself staring at her hands and
wanting to find out how much of a person she really was, as they defined.
Someone found water on Mars last year and said that that was
enough evidence to prove that there had once been life out there.
Here too, she thought
A Conversation with Stephanie Tom
Richa: Could you please tell us about your lovely poem 'Blue Rocket'?
Stephanie: 'Blue Rocket' is actually the result of a year of deliberation, when I began to notice a trend in my writing in which I was consistently contemplating abstract ideas such as what comes after death, what really gives us purpose in life, and what makes us human. 'Blue Rocket' ultimately addresses the last question, and the two people featured in the poem think in ways that juxtapose one another; the girl thinks "practically," in abstract terms, while the boy thinks "rationally," using numerical statements, both of them attempting to explain human behavior that no one has a reason for. They don't have names, because I believe these abstract ways of wondering can be applicable to many different people. This poem was a way for me to sort out my feelings during a particularly long period of existentialism, and I feel that writing this poem brought me back to earth as an act of reassurance.
Richa: What is your opinion of the current political scenario? Do you believe that it's been informing your writing
Stephanie: Since November, everyone I know has been in a state of apprehension and as of today, we can see that our worry has not been without reason. Everything has been thrown into near chaos for the past weeks, and my phone has been ringing with news notifications that I can scarcely believe anymore. However, despite this, I still have faith in my fellow citizens that together, we can make it through and lessen the stand up for the marginalized and the minorities in this country, that we can still keep America together by the basis of equal rights, freedom and opportunity that this country was originally built on. I think that within the last few months, my writing has been getting progressively more passive-aggressive, and that it's starting to touch topics related to human rights and politics more frequently than it has in the past, as a subtle way of reacting to the current political scene. I'm also in the midst of drafting a dystopian for an independent study class in school, and I'm trying to work some semblance of hope into it, even if there seems to be none in times of chaos, as a kind of echo for our world. Overall I wouldn't say that politics have become a glaringly prominent topic in my writing, but I believe that it's been evolving as a response to everything that's gong on now.
Richa: Why do you write?
Stephanie: I've actually been thinking about this quite recently, as I noticed my writing style changing. The best way to put it is that I write as a way of reacting to life, and to bring some light to the world. When I was just starting to write, in middle school, I began writing cards and notes for my parents every time it was a holiday, one of their birthdays, or even when I thought that they had had a bad day, to try to cheer them up. In high school, I began writing as a reaction to wider worlds, outside of book reviews for class, and began writing about topics such as feminism and cultural appropriation as a way to address them and make others aware about issues that they might normally not care for. Last year, I joined my school newspaper to tackle controversial topics in the news and spread awareness of the injustice in the world. This year, I started writing about mental illness from a research based and personal perspective, to shed some light on the community and to try to erase the stigma around the topic. Whether I'm writing as a reaction to personal topics or global ones, I try to spread awareness and to hopefully deliver some reassurance as well. Writing has been a constant outlet for me in my life to express myself without fear, and as a method for personal coping, I hope that it can help others too.