• Shinji Moon / Writing

    Shinji Moon is an 18 year old writer living in New York City. There are times when I've read her words and my heart has almost leapt out of my chest entirely. She has a way of plucking at heartstrings and turning all that music of what it is to be human into words.

    Why do you write? People have stopped thinking. They’ve stopped bouncing thoughts between the external world and their own internal world and it’s like we’ve succumbed to this certain numbness that we just don’t want to give up for convenience’s sake. We’re growing up with television screens as parents and society telling us what to believe in. I write so that I don’t forget to stop and look around and take in the atmosphere every once in a while and feel something, anything. I write because I don’t want to forget how wonderful it feels to be human. I used to do this only for myself. Quietly, in journals, I would spew thoughts and words as a release. No one knew. Not even my own family. But then I started writing for other people, and now I’m somewhere in between, easing the pain in my own chest with a poem while simultaneously trying to give a little pluck to the heart of humanity as a whole. I want to move myself and I want to move others, just for a moment. I write for instant gratification. All I want is for people to remember just how awesome it is to feel things every once in a while, and to think, to truly think, without the distractions of today’s world making it so hard to do so. Do you remember the first thing you wrote? When I was six years old I wrote a story about a monster who hid bones underneath a rug that coexisted in the same world as a sweet old lady who fell off of a hill after the dinner bell rang too loud. But I don’t think you’re asking about that, are you? The first poem I remember writing and thinking, “This is a poem that I really wrote” was from when I was what, fourteen years old?, and first recognized that you could find yourself so easily in the world around you. It was called “I, Ms. Dandelion.” It was really just me toying with language and finding a rhythm that I could fall into. It’s funny. I haven’t thought about this poem in years now but I can still recite bits of it by heart. I still say “a could-be, a should-be, a leftover would-be” in my writing every now and then. Reading it now I feel fourteen again. What a strange age. It was such a searching time.

           I, Ms. Dandelion  
    Me, I’m a dandelion, everywhere at once.
    Unearth me in lawns, in hollow sidewalk cracks.
    Underappreciated, just give me a moment;
    The smallest of moments, and you’ll see what I can do.

    Hold me tight, my dear, for I’ll be gone by dawn.
    I’m held here by heartstrings, but for whom do I stay?
         There’s no world for me here,
              No world for me there,
                     There’s not a world for me

    *        *        *

    You’ll break through the cosmos to try to find me,
    the remains of a girl, a dandelion girl.
    You’ll beg and you’ll plead, but all that you’ll get
    Is a handful of hair,
    A handful of air.  
    Look to the sky, white-faced and burnt,
    For remains of a girl, a dandelion girl
        of a could-be, a would-be, a leftover should-be,
        An unanswered wish, a freckle of hope
    A flash of ebony
    And raspberry lips
    And I, Ms. Dandelion, waving goodbye.

    Where do you write and what is the process like for you? I write anywhere where I have pockets or a bag big enough for me to carry a notebook in. If all else fails, I make a note of a snippet in my phone. I like to write in places where people are constantly moving, constantly going in and out and staying for a moment. Sometimes I’ll buy myself lunch and sit in a corner of a small restaurant or cafĂ© and do the whole quintessential late-teens college student thing and feel like a clichĂ© and get some awful satisfaction from it anyway. I like writing where there’s inspiration everywhere, flooding up to my knees and pouring through air vents and coffee taps. I wrote one of my favorite poems on the stall wall of a bathroom somewhere in a rest stop in New Jersey while I was driving to Maryland for a summer. I almost wish I had the poem now. The process of writing for me isn’t so much a process as much as it is just me having a conversation with a page, with another Me sitting quietly on my shoulder. A lot of the time I’ll collect moments and thoughts and people throughout my day and infuse them in my work later on when I’m writing. I can go weeks without writing, and then suddenly, I’ll step in a poem while walking home from class and peel it off of the bottom of my shoe when I get home. The poem come and goes. It’s just that every now and then it stays long enough for me to catch it. I don’t feel like I have a whole process of going about it. I let my hands take control and that’s that. Most of the time, I don’t even go back and check it over because it’s still too fresh, too bloody for me to look at it objectively. What things inspire you? Small acts of candid humanity while walking down the street. A girl in all black carrying sunflowers at three in the morning. A man crying into a handkerchief, folding and unfolding a small piece of paper quietly to himself on the 6 train uptown. Sea glass. The slow ease from first introductions to first kiss to the first time you make love to the first time someone makes you cry. The relationship between humans and nature. The littlest things. Smaller and smaller and smaller until you don’t know if they were real or now. Glimpses into worlds that don’t belong to me. Strangers, above all: how beautifully they move when they don’t think they’re being watched. A lot of your writing explores human emotion, to me it seems like you find the center of a feeling and explore every beautiful and bittersweet angle. What draws you so much to wanting to understand and articulate human emotion? There’s this constant and unyielding pull that we all innately have to try to understand the depths of humanity. And if that sentence was a complete lie, then at least there is in me this unquenchable thirst for something that I can’t understand. There’s a red string around all of our ankles interconnecting us all in a way that is so beautiful to me that all I can do is try to write about it. When you think about your life when you’re older, so much older than now, you’ll think about the people that you’ve met and the ones who’ve touched your hearts. Only then will you be able to tell who was the most important to you. I think what I’m trying at here is writing at every stage of this life of mine, watching myself and the others around me evolve and grow up and into themselves and outward towards others. People bloom and it’s so beautiful to see what colors they hold. Is it not the absolute truth? There are some feelings that are universal. We know the feeling of love, of caring for someone,  for hurting for someone, because of someone, with someone — but it’s just that none of us can put it into words. All I’m trying to do is dissect hearts and souls and minds and human beings without the messiness of open-heart surgery. What do you find beautiful? Dancers. How you can tell so much from someone by the way they walk. A slow rising morning with a cup of tea and a window where you can watch the sky change into day. Waking up, turning over, and kissing a boy you love on the mouth without him waking up, and falling asleep again — all of it a dream. You can find beauty in everything if you remain in an ever-wondering, ever-wandering state of being. Don’t let the world tell you that you what is beautiful. There are roses in the trashcan across the street from me. Someone spilled milk over the petals. A man commented, saying how disgusting it was; the girl he was with called them beautiful. Shut your eyes but never close them off. Don’t let the world tell you what is beautiful. There is no right or wrong answer. What is an experience that really changed you and the way you look at things? When I was sixteen I worked at my stepfather’s barn over the summer, walking racehorses and grooming them and whatnot. There was a woman who worked there who had the deepest ebony hair curled and tied at the nape of her neck. Her name was Gloria and she had low-set shoulders and could carry two full water buckets in each hand. She was strong and she was beautiful, with the elegant rhythm in her step of a retired dancer. She didn’t speak English well, and I didn’t speak Spanish at all, but we formed a relationship with each other through Good Morning’s and small head nods and always feeling elated when seeing the other. She had the kindest face and the most unapologetically green eyes that were surrounded by storylines and crow’s feet. On the last day of my working there, I made my rounds to say my goodbyes, and when I got up to her I spluttered out in broken English and gesticulations that I was leaving, that I wouldn’t be coming back. And I didn’t say much but I know she understand. She held onto the sides of my face and spilled such lyrical Spanish into my ears. A language of sheet music. Soft peals of nonsense. It didn’t matter then that neither of us could speak the other’s language, because I knew that the words we were saying were in complete bilingual symmetry.
     She took her hands off my face and quickly took off the earrings she was wearing. She cupped my hands in hers and dropped them into my palms, curling my fingers around them. I remember not wanting to take them at first — I never saw her without them on for the three summers that I worked there. They were so much a part of her. But every time I tried to give them back, she just shook her head no. This was her gift to me. Without a single hesitation, she gave a gift to a girl that she had barely even spoken to.
     On the plane ride home the next day, I remember crying the entire time. Once in a while, every few decades or so, you meet someone who touches you in such a small and monumental way that your heart grows to keep them in there for good. There are people you meet who teach you more than you can ever learn from a book, a movie, a three-hour lecture on Proust. Sometimes, language falls away, and paves a path for something more beautiful — a truth more honest than the discrepancy between feeling and language, between what you want to say and what you can say. Sometimes, you learn that the most you can convey is through actions. Love through verbs. Feel through nouns. What is you favourite feeling and why? Contentedness. Waking up to fresh coffee. Sitting by the water with someone you love and talking about the thoughts you’ve collected in puddles over the night. The simplicity of being barefoot in August with your pant legs rolled up, sitting around with good company underneath the slow sway of the porch light from across the way, drinking a Corona with a lime wedge in it, and laughing about a memory that is so unimportant now, because all you want to remember is that scene. It’s that feeling of pure ease, letting your limbs fall loose and untying your hair over your shoulders and smiling because the water is so beautiful, because conversation is the best soundtrack, because the most beautiful moments are the ones that don’t require anything but this: the low hum of an August dusk, with the late blue fading into an early midnight; the fireflies, always; and someone had gone and dropped stars all over the sky. When the tranquility of the world around me and the world inside of me are in cahoots, I know that I’m happy — that all is finally okay. Can you describe what the world seems like to you? I don’t really think I can. Is there a piece you've written that really stands out to you (maybe a favourite piece or just one you really connect with)? “A Rendition of Autumn.” I don’t know. Personally, I think it’s one of the best poems I’ve written. It’s so strange to see what people like in comparison to what I like when it comes to my work. We’re all so touched by such different things. 

    There was a point in our lives

    where if I slit my throat, it was you who would bleed.
    You say goodbye too often in autumn.
    Tonight the last leaf fell off the tree beyond my bedroom window,

    and I could hear the sound of branches aching for love to wrap
around their leaves like limbs.
    It was three a.m. in the last stretch of May.
Springtime calls for heartbeat symphonies
and when we pressed our bodies together they coincided like
chords, like staccatos when I ran my hand down
your spine.
    Fog is one of the top reasons that drivers get killed each year.
    In the backseat of my car we almost caused
the hundredth casualty,

    but all I got were bruises in the shape of apologies
along my thighs.
    There are certain people who leave scars when they go.
    Tonight I cut my thumb while I was peeling an apple.
I thought of you.

    — “A Rendition of Autumn,” Shinji Moon

    What do you imagine the future Shinji Moon to be like? I’m already such an old lady now that I couldn’t imagine what I’ll be like later on. I can only say hopes. I feel as though I’ve grown into my skin for the most part. Maybe I’ll grow another two inches. Maybe I’ll have picked up smoking cigarettes again. Maybe I’ll have quit for good. Maybe I’ll drink more coffee. Maybe I won’t let the smallest pin drop of moments break me. Hopefully, I’ll be stronger. Hopefully, I’ll have lived in so many parts of the world that I feel at home anywhere instead of nowhere. Hopefully, someone will fall in love with me and I’ll fall in love with that someone and we can create a world between us that I’ll believe in more than anything. Hopefully, I will become in myself, a work of art. Maybe one day, I’ll even stop wearing glasses. If you could make a mix tape of poems what would you put on it? Man, what a wonderful question. This is a mixtape I would make for a boy I dated once:

    1. “Sonnet XVII,” Pablo Neruda
    2. “The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart,” Jack Gilbert
    3. “That Romantic Sunset,” Laura Van Slyke
    4. “Mountain Dew Commercial Disguised as a Love Poem,” Matthew Olzmann
    5. “Privilege of Being,” Robert Hass
    6. “Photograph,” Robert Hass 
    7. “Collision Theory,” Marty McConnell 
    8. “Please Move To Vermont and Break My Heart,” Gregory Sherl 
    9. “The Four Moon Planet,” Billy Collins
    10. “Scheherazade,” Richard Siken
    11. “The Cinnamon Peeler’s Wife,” Michael Ondaatje

    If you were something else, other than a human, what would you be? A travel mug What are five things you cannot live without? My planner, tea kettle, journal, red lipstick and a good book. 

    You can find Shinji at commovente and you can read her poetry mixtape here.

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