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"To My Younger Self" by Olivia Sourivong

Transcribed into the poetry collection titled, “To My Younger Self” my work of art describes the stories and tribulations that I wish my younger self could have addressed during my childhood.

To My Younger Self

A Collection of Poems

By Olivia Sourivong

SEA Change Lab Changemaker

Winter 2022

"Keep Calm and Love Me Long Time Livi" (Part 1)

"Keep Calm and Love Me Long Time Livi" (Part 2)

"Can I Cut Your Hair?"

Transcribed into the poetry collection titled, “To My Younger Self” my work of art describes the stories and tribulations that I wish my younger self could have addressed during my childhood. As well, I used a digital media collage edited through Adobe Photoshop to give some visionary pieces to my words. While it is not too late to be having those conversations with myself, I am still grieving from most of these realizations. In the process of accepting past events in my life, I have formulated these poetry pieces to make sense of my lived experiences.

The first poem “Can I Cut Your Hair?” I tell the story of the time someone cut my hair in my kindergarten class. While it seemed like an innocent act, I have realized the effects it had created for me as a child and the way that I defined my beauty at such a young age.

In the second poem, “Love Me Long Time Livi,” I do a remix of the commonly well-known Asian female stereotype “me love you long time.” This poem chronicles my early adolescent years of feeling lost in my identity among my non-Asian friends, and more particularly with men in dating culture. I reminisce on the times when I felt I had to internalize a lot of the false Asian American stereotypes that only further subjected and hindered the process of trying to understand myself. However, even through this grieving process of trying to understand who I truly am, there is a larger sign of hope for myself to better reclaim my Lao American identity when I for so long felt ashamed of it.

Official Artist Statement:

As I am still trying to find my identity and voice, I try my best to break these barriers through poetry. I offer my vulnerability to these spaces—my voice. I compose poems to heal from what has been done to me and attempt to cope with these traumatic sensations. My art helps me to escape into my ideas and express myself while I reflect on society and culture. The poems that I tend to write are around topics of conflict between the past and reality. I enjoy using different languages to bridge over those blurs. As of lately, my most often composed poems critique gender stereotypes and the representation of women in popular culture. I have utilized my own prior lived experiences as a springboard in my poetry: as a child, and even as a college student today trying to figure out adulthood I still struggle with the feeling of being “othered” in my country.

Another significant component of my art is the utilization of images. In high school, I had learned some photoshop skills and wanted to mix them into the words of my poetry to create symbolism and images for readers. I utilize both digital media and photographs in my poetry collection, as they are reflected by the terms and phrases I use in my poems. This ability to see things in two different ways through words and photographs stimulates my passion for how I perceive growth between past and present-day reality.

About Olivia

I was born and raised in the Sunflower State of Kansas with roots in both Nong Khai, northeast Thailand, and Savannakhet, Laos. I never had the opportunity to meet other Lao or SEA kids like me. I never felt like I belonged in any group; I attended a school in a small suburban town with less than a dozen Asian students. I felt like a bowl of cheerios, a little piece floating in a sea of whiteness. Today, I carry the weight of intergenerational trauma that I for so long have been trying to break apart from. I carry the burden of what it means to be a Southeast Asian American woman in Western society. I carry silence. But each poem I write is one step toward breaking the silence.

As some women poets and other artists have made significant gains in the mainstream, I feel these spaces must be preserved for future generations to learn from and empathize with. My poems are written from the perspective of the person I am. These poems are our space. Gender issues continue to pervade every aspect of my existence. In the future, I hope for a powerful, empowering, and inclusive future for women's art and artistic creation.


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