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From our next free class instructor, Sokunthary Svay, on the voices that influence her

Our next free writing class, "Hearing Voices," taught by Newtown Literary poetry editor Sokunthary Svay, is on Saturday, January 6, 2018 at 2:30 p.m. at Queens Library at Maspeth (69-70 Grand Avenue). Below, Sokunthary writes about her recent trip to Cambodia, the voices that populate that trip, and writing poetry. See you in Maspeth!

I get pulled in many directions from the voices in my life. In my recent trip to Cambodia, they come from a variety of places—whether the tree spirits in the countryside of Takeo where I visited my father’s family, to the street nightlife of Phnom Penh, to admonitions for not teaching my daughter our heritage language Khmer, and sometimes to my own inner monologue about how to translate from Khmer to English.

More literally, the voices tend to be of my family asking us what we want to eat at any given moment, what food they can buy to satisfy us, if we’d like another beer (of which there seem only pilsners in this country).

Is it that there’s something special about us that they feel this need to be together so often and for hours at a time? The look of disappointment when we must pull ourselves away, this is the pull of family I missed in the United States when friends of mine had cousins and aunts to choose from on any given day. In Cambodia, though, there’s always someone who wants to toast to and with us (and several times during each beer or whenever the feeling is right).

The relatives I stayed with are right now celebrating my aunt’s birthday and both my husband and I, back in the United States, are surprised not to be there with them, when for two weeks we were part of nearly everything in their lives.

Even as the voices of my family recede into the quiet in the back of my mind, their influence remains. Sometimes it comes in the form of a memory, a saying, a goodbye. I look forward to Saturday’s class to hear what new voices come.

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