Image from Pexels.

Image from Pexels.

When I pitched this article, I meant it as a typical “10 best things about” or a presuming, reclaiming “Why you should join” kind. But the more I think about how to actually execute the idea, the more I’ve come to accept there is no tangible idea behind the impetus to write. There are only joy, blissful retrospection and fuzzy anticipation as I think about my first year writing, performing, opening my spectra of the world to be splattered with new colors, most of which tinted by the people I worked along in the magazine. It is an on-campus literary magazine exploring first person narratives—in other words, memoirs, personal essays molded in prose and poetry that are ridden with an occasionally flinching and however very brave “I”.

I am in the performance ensemble of the magazine, meaning I write and perform my pieces in launch parties, cabarets and whatever public showcases we deem relevant and meaningful. I suppose the philosophy of what we do is akin to slam poetry, although both our style and content aren’t necessarily. Looking back I am delighted that we rarely have solo performances that are completely out of tunes with others despite every entitlement to run over the hill with the singular “I”. Our concerns are only twofold: how to engage the audience and how to let them know we are a close group of performers in more creative ways than a verbal announcement of said identity.

I think we love what we do because of some crazy logic that runs from the giddy anxiety before the zero hour to an evading conviction that feeds on sparks in-between. Sparks that are kindled between the performer and the watcher, sparks resurrected as the performer slips into indeterminate time and space of her personal writings, sparks that last until clapping commences on the actualization of the full stop. The conviction that we are in all powers to connect, shake, move, visit and revise things soluble by words.

I think I continue to do it because I know there is always someone else willing, or even eager, to listen to my work. We create a temporary space that nestles us wherever we work on our performance pieces: the library, music practice rooms or a patch of muddy grass in a small neighborhood park. We don’t wear berets to be artists or drape a cloak of soot on life issues as we name them. We don’t write bad poems—or maybe we do—but we feel every emotion so earnestly and intensely. There is absolutely no pretense because we give one another what we might be unrightfully deprived: the fumbling at the heart of our humanity without the tag of “being dark” or “sounding futile and depressive”.

I have many years ahead to be career-oriented. In fact, my worry 10 years into the future may revolve around not getting chewed up by work rather than landing some. But I am running out of time to ask questions that bear no definitive answers, to muddle with feelings, and to relish in tangles that become light fractures making our heart shine humanly and so divinely. I decide to be selfish: roaming in the domain of my infatuations namely read, write, and contemplate, and I think it makes a better human being from a faint-hearted puzzled one.

In all seriousness, I am not at all good at public speaking. It scares me out of my mind whenever I attempt to grapple with this three-part thought layout: me, my writings, and an audience possibly a great deal more well-read and eloquent than I am. I have felt myself distinctively shaking mid-performance for several occasions, and my heart always turns into an exaggerated fabric canvas at the onset of the adrenaline pump and even weeks after. But I keep coming back. Maybe for the aforesaid rationale. Maybe because I am meant to be hanging on the edge, testing myself with unmeasured depths of a foray out of my comfort zone.

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Chi Thuy Le likes to think she lives bi-continentally while writing out of Chicago.

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