January 2017: Topaz Winters
Topaz Winters is a writer in a raining city. She is the author of Heaven or This (2016) & Monsoon Dream (Platypus Press, 2016); collectively, her chapbooks have been downloaded over 15,000 times. Her poetry, essays, & fiction have appeared in Wildness, Hypertrophic Literary, & The Best Teen Writing of 2015 anthology, & commended by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards & the National YoungArts Foundation, among others. At 17, she is the youngest Singaporean ever to be nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She was born in 1999 & resides at topazwinters.com. At this moment she is learning of California poppies, the difference between warm milk & forgetting, & how magic behaves in times of desperate measure.
Scientific Theory of Lost Girl
speak of girl as unused muscle(treats herself as separate atoms,
the time it takes for a body to relearn shades of geometry)
all the cosmos she does not know(satellites like man-made stars)
girl as rare mineral(as newton’s third of motion)speak of girl
as odyssey of the digestive system(cells constricting,
sharp objects in her throat, a name that is not in latin)
finds herself somewhere between pluto and an
imaginary number(is she still real if those around her
deny it?)find the girl like apollo 13(no more ground control to
call back home)like untied double helix(or the square root of
yearning)plotting the repopulation of every single town
that has suffered(the nuclear war in her lungs)
girl comes home to downward spiral(call it marinas trench
call it plotting angles too far below the surface)
smiles in the way of radians smiles in the way of lies(and falls
through tender oxygen and the ice)
A Conversation with Topaz Winters
Richa: Issue 5 of Moledro aims to help eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illnesses. From our conversations, I can tell that this theme resonates with you. Could you tell us more about it?
Topaz: I suffer from several mental disorders - depression, anxiety, hyperacusis, & obsessive-compulsive disorder. It has been a struggle & a journey since I was first diagnosed in 2015; these days I mainly focus on healing & self-care & trying to forgive myself on so many levels. That said, it is incredibly important to me that I use my small platform to be as vocal as possible about the experience of living with mental illness; there are still infinitely many stereotypes & too much ignorance surrounding mental disorders I have that are shared by millions (see: anxiety) & those that no one else has ever heard of (see: hyperacusis). I am so glad that Moledro is dedicating an issue to uplifting the voices of writers with mental illnesses. Such measures go far to reveal the experience of neurodivergence to neurotypical people & to further normalise mental illness in a society that too often feels desperate to alienate its sufferers.
Richa: Lovely! You have a lovely journal, Half Mystic. What prompted you to start it, and how has it helped you grow as a writer?
Topaz: I began Half Mystic in the summer of 2015, just after I had been diagnosed with hyperacusis, a mental disorder with very physical effects. I often describe hyperacusis as having "x-ray hearing"; my ears are sensitive enough to pick up the quietest noises & hear everything with the volume turned up. Sounds that others strain to hear or can't detect at all, I hear normally; sounds that others find average, I find deafening. Eventually, it became bad enough that I was unable to pick up my instruments, though I had once been a prolific musician.
Half Mystic, then, was an attempt to bring another dimension of music into my life, now that I was unable to play the instruments that had once brought me such light. I poured all of my frustration & anxiety & sadness into building that journal, something true & bright & blossoming with melody even through the sorrow - & it has helped me grow in innumerable ways. I am infinitely grateful for the gorgeous staff, readers, submitters, contributors, & featured artists who have placed their faith in Half Mystic & let it touch their lives. Some days it is hard to believe that anything I create is worth holding onto - but their passion & dedication proves me otherwise on a daily basis & reminds me how lucky I am to be part of this beautiful community.
Richa: And lastly, what would you say to youngsters who are struggling to open up about their own mental illnesses and struggles?
Topaz: Your existence alone is an act of strength. Every atom in your body is fighting so hard for you to keep breathing. You have no obligation to share your illnesses with others, but you are only more courageous for choosing to do so. It is easy to believe that no one sees us, that we are alone in this struggle with the demons in our heads, but listen to me now: I see you. I love you. I am fighting for you always. My sword is yours.