“I am but one woman”

The past few months have been aging me. Critical reading and theory takes more from me than I had suspected. In such time, I’ve also come into myself as a poet (maybe enough to make a few assertions of my own).

Amongst wine and Parliaments in writerly circles, one often hears a nervous complaint. “What of us, who remain poor, overlooked and hanging on the fringes of society?”

It took quite some time (and courage) to say: poetry is a privilege. It is the one vocation that does not work under the pretense of money. There are few things in life so blessed and conscience-free. I speak for business and enterprise that seem to deaden the individual spirit, leaving one ever so passive. Poets have a moral responsibility. One strives for poetry because she chooses to follow a different measure of life. How could she ask for anything in return?

Having chosen such a vocation, there are pains I must embrace. First) I will let people down, particularly those closest to me from my adhering to isolation and financial dissolution. Second) I will not make a difference in this world. This is one of the revelations that I have resisted the most. I am but one woman. I contain no power to move those around me and never will try to. My very best involves finding change in myself and Beauty in its richest form—in nature and the human heart.

1807 Oleander Place

Appeared in New Forum and The Susquehanna Review

 

At night as Mom had, I rubbed

my wrists with ginkgo lotion.

They rested by my face

and I fell asleep smelling her.

 

Each morning in my garage-home,

I boiled salt water with pepper sauce,

used the same chopstick to stir.

I drank it.

 

Since I had no phone, she shipped

kimchi packets that ripened on the trip.

She penned letters from Seoul;

I signed the postal slip on tip toe

 

and set them aside—her folded slip

with foreign squares, short crosses,

stops, points—

crowding the page, covering the creases.

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35 comments

  1. Anonymous

    Dear Angela,

    You have some fine quotes throughout, about refining, and letting the scholars pull out the meaning. The image/soundage of Christmas music in August is good. My mum used to play it full blast, pouring out of our windows while we worked or played in the yard in summer. Our friends came over. Everyone cooled off. Your poetry about your mum is striking and meaningful. You already know. Peace and all good things for you in writing and in life.

    Sincerely,
    Diane

  2. D.M. Solis

    Dear Angela,

    You have some fine quotes throughout, about refining, and letting the scholars pull out the meaning. The image/soundage of Christmas music in August is good. My mum used to play it full blast, pouring out of our windows while we worked or played in the yard in summer. Our friends came over. Everyone cooled off. Your poetry about your mum is striking and meaningful. You already know. Peace and all good things for you in writing and in life.

    Sincerely,
    Diane

    • angelaejkoh

      Dear Diane,

      Thank you for stopping by and especially taking the time to comment. I know WordPress is tough for commenting. Anyways, I’m glad I came across your blog. You’ve created a forum for all writers to come and discuss their opinions. I also agree that one should never let creative ideas, energy go to waste (from your interview). It might have been Beethoven, but before his death he mentioned the concertos that were never completed, the songs he’d just begun.

      Best,

      angela

  3. Cheikh

    The way you describe poetry is a way not many people, in my opinion, can describe their craft. The individuals ability to grow as a person is a direct reflection on the growth of their work. Also knowing that you have embraced any pains that you have struggled with motivates me to embrace any pains that I have or may encounter. My respect for you continues to grow. Please keep up the good work!

  4. angelaejkoh

    I’m glad to hear this especially as I see your sketches, graphics on your recent projects. They show growth and further promise. Hopefully, I can be a support and an aid during the times of internal, artistic struggle. I know I will remember your support.

    angela

  5. Tim

    While I reluctantly agree that we have to endure isolation and financial dissolution as we venture further down this path, I wholeheartedly disagree with the thought that you (and possibly I) “will not make a difference in this world.” On the contrary, I feel that you’ve already started making a difference just by sharing your thoughts and revelations. While you may not (yet) be able to move mountains or cure diseases, you may unknowingly inspire someone who will.

    And that, to me, still counts as making a difference.

    With that said, keep on inspiring, and we’ll keep on reading!

    ~Tim

    P.S. Thanks for checking out my ghost town of a blog. It means a lot to me!

    • angelaejkoh

      Dear Tim,

      I think you exhibit the kind of spirit that is essential to the enduring writer–“While one may not (yet) be able to move mountains or cure diseases, one may unknowingly inspire someone who will…And that, to me, still counts as making a difference.”

      It’s an important reminder and it tends to take away one’s self-pity. Thanks for stopping by. Onward! (Also your blog cannot be a ghost town, I think it reaches more than you think).

      angela

  6. Koiyuki

    The thing about making a difference in this world, is what we won’t really know what we’ve done to cause a change in the air until were long gone, and the works we leave behind are carried on by those who will come after us. The best we can do is to speak from our hearts, express ourselves clearly and without restraint and help others see what they may take for granted on a day to day basis. The world is a place full of wonder, mystery and captivating sights, even in the very towns we grow up in, but we often cannot see the forrest until someone helps us recognize the trees.

    • angelaejkoh

      This reminds me of how one enters the world of poetry. One cannot contribute unless they learn what everyone before has already discovered–this is a testament to progress. Thus, classics, history, and mass of critical studies is a river that one will be a part of. To what end, sometimes I don’t know, but I agree that “the best we can do is…express ourselves clearly and without restraint.”

      Thanks for stopping by, Koi, and for the discussion. Hope to hear from you more!

      angela

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  8. gretchen cello

    Dear Angela

    I am glad to have come across your page. As a Writer and occasional academic, I enjoyed reading and also relate to many of your views and statements.

    These days when I look around certain societies and see what people get paid for, I personally believe nearly anything is possible in that regard. All the best to you and your words. Keep fighting the good fight.

    g.

    • angelaejkoh

      Dear Gretchen,

      Thanks for stopping by. It’s great to hear from other writers. I especially enjoyed your photographs of autumn trees. They’re beautiful. I’m glad we can meet like this and share ideas, even from across the country. Looking forward to reading more of your posts.

      Best of luck to your future writing projects,

      angela

    • Sachin

      I live in New England, where autumn is just short of a rioigelus experience. Mums are defiant little buttons of brightness, hedging the sidewalks near my building and the hillsides will soon blaze with color. They know our bitter nor’easters are coming, but for a brief time, the world dances in glory.

  9. e6n1

    A teacher once told me that the poet is ‘A star of words’. I always admire the best poets who can make you see and feel things in a different light with words and word-imagery.
    Lovely photos too!

    • angelaejkoh

      Hi there,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’m glad to see people commenting since I know WordPress makes it difficult and even daunting (I regretted shutting down my blogspot page).

      But anyways, your teacher must have a deep respect for poets. I’m glad to hear that not all is lost! Great to meet you and hope we keep in touch.

      angela

  10. Keith

    Angela,
    I’m So glad to have found your blog!! I would like to say that we all make a difference in the world! First, by living here on earth we give plenty of happiness to our parents by being their children, and in a way giving them a new perspective on life than before they had us. Second, by the people we meet and the beauty we discover in making friends. I think you have alot going for you with your writings,etc..Thank You for starting this blog!!
    Keith

    • angelaejkoh

      Hi Keith,

      I apologize about taking so long to reply! I’ve been gearing up for my GRE’s this week and wished I got back sooner.

      Thank you for finding my blog and leaving a comment on the first visit (this is rare no?). I think you make some humble points. I like to think my parents enjoy having me as a child and it’s a bit mushy to admit that. Haha.

      Hope we keep in touch, Keith!

      angela

  11. August Brent

    hi Angela

    I came across your blog earlyer today. I actually mentioned this on Twitter, but id like to formally say I enjoy your blog, you have some amazing posts on here.
    also I wanted to comment on what you said about not being able to make a difference. I just want to say you are a poet, your voice and words can reach people and that right there is where you can make a difference. i’ve learned that even words in any form even poetry can send the right kind of message to someone and even effect thier day, week or life. so yeah people can make a difference in thier own way. whether it’s with art, thier words, or even like me makin people laugh. if I can make people around me feel good I feel iv made a difference :)

    ok later gator

  12. Mike Clark

    Not to downplay your eloquent words … but I just have to say I love the picture of your kitchen! I’m impressed with the organized chaos – I think artists/writers tend to have creative and original living spaces and I’m intrigued by the space you’ve made. Well done.

    • angelaejkoh

      Hi Mike!

      That’s a picture of my mother’s kitchen in Seoul, Korea. She’s incredibly neat and currently obsessed with wooden furniture and make-your-own pottery. She has plates and pots labeled “Koh’s Family.” She’s quite the creative one!

      My space is no different, very neat otherwise I can’t work in the clutter. It just makes me feel crazy and dirty. Haha, which most of us are. I wonder how your kitchen is? I think this is an interesting topic you’ve started. Writers and their kitchen!

      I will post more pictures as soon as I can Mike!

      angela

  13. Chris

    Hi Angela, only heard about you thanks to the good guys at Wongfu.

    I used to write a bit of poetry (mostly of dubious quality), though it just about dried up. Back when I was at uni, I generally had the urge to write just before and during exams, and I took that as a sign that my brain was switched on.

    Since uni I have only written a few poems, generally only when something has really inspired or saddened me.

    I am not sure how you keep finding inspiration, but I wish you all the best. Inspiration is probably the most important single influence for artists of all types, but also the most variable and uncontrollable…

    • angelaejkoh

      It was great working with Wongfu. They’re a talented bunch. Do you know them?

      Thanks for sharing your experience with poetry. It’s common to begin, stop, and have to begin again. I hope you continue looking for workshops or even better, continue reading poetry. I’m convinced there is no greater food for the soul!

      Best of luck to you,

      angela

      • Chris

        No, sadly I don’t, since they are on the other side of the Pacific – but I am a fan of their work. They really need to come to Sydney!

        I think I will leave it for a decade or two, unless my inspiration make a comeback. Right now it’s on the “would be nice but if not don’t worry too much” list. I find that without the spark (inspiration I guess) I either can’t write anything or it is just horrible, and so until inspiration come knocking once again…

        Hope you never lack for inspiration!

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  15. Kasou

    “I will not make a difference in this world”….

    Your words will make a difference to the people who read it.

    We all have a place in this world. Even the cleaner makes a big difference to the world. This place will be trash without the cleaners. This place will not function without our simple bus drivers, factory packers and traffic controllers. We function as a team in the world, relying on one another in more ways than one can imagine.

    Your words maybe the string of hope and connection to those who feel alone or at lost. Or it maybe an inspirational spark to those who would have fallen behind. Even if you only touch one person. That’s one person’s whose life is smiling right now (ie me :D)

    You make a difference. Be proud of your talents. ^^

    (just a passerby)

  16. angelaejkoh

    Chris,

    I found that the idea of being deemed by “inspiration” is well, a load of crap. I’m not inspired by a muse nor do I wait for it. Writing, like all things is work and something to fight through rather than have it come to you. I can’t speak for everyone, but at least in my experience it has been both satisfying and excruciating.

    I understand and respect that you need some distance from the craft. I think it will do great things for you.

    angela

    Kasou,

    Thank you for coming by and taking the time to comment. You may be right and you make some good points. Sometimes, we all push away an encouraging outlook like yours because it seems easier when we think everything will “go to shit.”

    I’ll need to hear more from you soon,

    angela

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  18. Bruce Sallan

    You are wrong, Angela, you will make a difference in the world – if only one person at a time! Saving one life is like saving the world – touching one life is touching the world! Have faith…your writing is beautiful!

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  20. jjhausman

    Angela,

    Surprised a wild old spirit such as yourself with freedom throbbing in the veins would condescend to taking writing courses even at prestigious Columbia U though I’m sure you will emerge a meticulously styled and supremely cultured poetess with a voice all her own recruiting a timeless following to fall into sync with your vision of what is.

    I am always fence sitting after some initial success in contests and whatnot about going that route of formalized study for now however I am content to fervently read books of all brands and the silent songs of William Blake while emulating them and updating them for my own inner ear if not for anybody else’s. Following your blog now make sure to make it rise.

    JJHausman

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