A Harvard poet’s process and passions.
By CAROLINE CRONIN
Mo K ’18 is a senior at Harvard this year. While working on a thesis in History and Literature and exploring options for possible post-graduate endeavors, Mo is also publishing a book – a book of poetry that is. This project, which entails much more than the complex adventure that is writing itself, has taken Mo on a journey of realizing, struggling, and healing.
Mo stated that, “I have been writing poetry since maybe my senior year of high school. And it sort of began out of a desire and a need to make space for myself to process and to think about what was happening in my life and in the world. In college I began performing and writing in the spoken word community. And that was really important in finding my voice and being comfortable speaking in front of other people.” This comfort with a new voice led to an abundance of expression for Mo. They said, “I really didn’t have time to organize my work but I wrote a lot of poetry in the last three years and I realized at the end of junior year [that] a lot of it centered on historical trauma – Korean history – but also my family history and how those two are connected. A lot of it centered on queerness; a lot of it centered on mental health; and a lot of it centered on language itself, poems about speaking, writing poems and performing poems. And that was the ‘oh’ moment for me. The motif that ties together my writing in the last few years is that I have been using writing to heal and to empower other people. And that is how I got the title Speech Therapy. ”
For Mo, empowering and healing is a central part of the personal experience in writing. But they also hope to influence readers in more ways than one. According to Mo, “The writing process is a way of understanding yourself in relation to the world. The hope is that when someone reads my work it is awesome if they can understand me better. But, ideally, I think its even better when someone says ‘Your poem made me want to write again,’ or, ‘Your poem made me want to think about these things.’ Poetry can be an intensely personal voice and because of that it can also be one in which you understand the political through the personal.”
Mo’s political work here is what they see as a solution to living in two worlds. Mo, in their time at Harvard and over the summers, has been focusing separately on art and on service. Speech Therapy is the culmination of living in these two worlds and finding a place for them to intersect in, “a book about my own trauma to help others.” This helping of others is accomplished through the Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence (ATASK) at which Mo worked over this past summer. All of the proceeds of Speech Therapy will go to ATASK. Here in the Boston area, ATASK works to “serve clients on an empowerment model. The model being understanding that survivors are always operating under the shame of their trauma and how they dealt with their trauma. But those things are things their body did to survive and adapt. This was healing for me because I am also a domestic violence survivor.”
This process of healing is also essential to the development of the book. According to Mo, the hardest part of writing the book was organizing the poems. After a while of struggling with the decision, Mo decided the most natural transgression is, “realizing, struggling, and healing.” Mo explains, “Part One is about discovering your voice, Part Two is struggling with writing, and the Part Three is a celebration of survival and finally bridging the person you were in that situation with the person you are now.” The journey that Mo has been on is shared by others in many ways. And Mo encourages fellow poets and fellow survivors to realize that, “your past self has wisdom that you do not expect.”
From deciding to publish in May to buying an ISBN and creating cover art, Mo’s process has brought them closer to their own passions and closer to the healing of others. Undoubtedly, Mo and Speech Therapy will serve to do the same and more for others.
Speech Therapy: Draft One is already online for free. This second, edited, and self-published book will be coming out in November. Find it and more details about contributing to ATASK here.
Caroline Cronin (firstname.lastname@example.org) is moved by Mo’s passion and commitment to art and service.