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Monica Sok (’16): Remembering Through Poetry

Poet Monica Sok feels right at home in her Saltonstall apartment. Many of her poet friends are Saltonstall alums and spent their residency in the same space: Ocean Vuong (’13), Javier Zamora (’15), Chen Chen (’14), Jay Deshpande (’13) and Sally Wen Mao (’14), among others. This continuity has inspired her. “It’s like being in conversation with each others’ work,” she says. “And if I’m having a bad day, I just imagine each of them laying out their poems on the floor.”
Like her fellow emerging poets, Monica has spent much of her residency revising and editing what she hopes will be her first full-length book. “Here’s my manuscript on the floor!” she smiles, pointing to piles of poems under the coffee table.

Monica is Cambodian-American and much of her work addresses the trauma experienced by her family during the Khmer Rouge regime. “There’s a lot of silence around our history,” she says, speaking about her family. “Language is very important to how we remember our history. What speaks to me most is how we remember. And I want to remember through poetry.”

Monica has always been interested in her history and studied international relations as an undergraduate. She came to poetry late in her college career, finding her voice and a way to write about difficult topics. “I write about the really dark corners in our lives — poetry might be the only way to really go towards those uncomfortable spaces,” she says. “I don’t always know how to talk about things like genocide or intergenerational trauma in plain language. Poetry is a different means to go toward the history I’ve inherited.”