More than words

READERS wouldn’t have experienced the visceral depths of Malaysian native, California-based Trina Teoh’s poetry if she’d stayed on her path as a script reader.

The 24-year-old had known early on in life that she’d wanted a career in the arts and so she’d moved to Arkansas when she was 16.

After graduating from California State University, Northridge in 2016, she’d continued as a script intern at International Film Trust as she’d been carrying out script-reading duties during college for several production companies including Arad Productions, a Marvel production house and Milestone Media, an indie film company.

As time went on, she became deeply mired in unhappiness. After many hours of crying and binge-watching Netflix shows as some of us are inclined to do in a quarter-life crisis, the desire to write was born again.

Some might see Teoh’s choice to self-publish her debut book of poetry, Valley Deep Into You, as an act of courage but it seems that it was partly born from a sense of uncertainty and impulse.

“I took on the self-publishing route because I was unsure about the project as a whole. I didn’t want to kid myself y’know?

“I knew that if I still felt awful about it in a week, I’ll delete the Amazon listing and go back to figuring it all out,” the self-described petite and boisterous poet explained.

Her poems, juxtaposed against soothing watercolour backgrounds, are brimming with emotions. One poem, titled Music, consists of five words across three lines, “The colour of your voice.”

And Blue merely says, “Empty pools, filling my head with thoughts of diving into you.” Though brief, they stay with the reader, interpreting the human experience into visuals and sounds.

Your poems seem to carry a sense of melancholy. Why are you drawn to sorrowful subjects?
I don’t mean for my work to come off as sorrowful. I don’t want to be a downer. My intention with this work is to evoke emotion.

It is about the reader’s feelings, they build the story in their head, these poems are the outline. It’s really funny to realise how poignant everyone gets when they dig a little deeper, maybe this recurring theme of misery stems from mortality.

Most people only know you as a poet. Tell us about some of your secret and not-so-secret passions.
A secret passion of mine is pottery, I want to learn more about that skill. A not-so-secret passion of mine is to sing/song-write; something I am working towards. Like acting, writing about others’ emotions and experiences could require some immersion.

How do you prevent yourself from getting emotionally affected?
I think my work does not affect me the way it would to the reader because I see this as a project. It’s kind of how when actors kiss on screen. It feels intimate but the viewer doesn’t see the lights and camera, only the action.

You’re hosting a dinner party and you can only invite six people. These people can be dead or alive, fictional or non-fictional. Who’s on your guest list and why did you choose them?
● Jesus – This guy has done some pretty righteous stuff. He is wise, loves everyone and only has good vibes!
● Chuck Palahniuk – He is my favourite author. He wrote the novel Fight Club.
● Mum and Dad – My parents are literally the cutest couple ever. They are a solid unit. My dad is the best company during meals and my mum makes the best meals.
● David Fincher – He is my favourite director. He directed the film Fight Club.
● Justin Vernon – He is the frontman and all-around genius of Bon Iver (folk band). I have so much to learn from him.

What’s the best and worst thing about being a writer?
I think the longevity of this art form is my favourite part about being a writer. I can do this writing thing for as long as I am able to!

The only aspect I despise most is how lonely the endeavour can be. I can’t deny how much time I spend inside my head.