Late in the summer of 2009, I wrote a poem titled “Speech of the Masquerade.” The poem was a bold revelation uncovering the true feelings and the true selves that people mask from the world. At the time, I was a freshman in high school. I used writing as an escape. Writing was a way I could freely express myself. Through words, I was able to communicate all which I was afraid to speak aloud.
But sometimes, even writing was difficult, especially when I wrote of myself.
The speaker of “Speech of the Masquerade” is conscious of the masquerade which is reality. She sees the masks that people wear in order to fit in and be accepted. And then she admits this is true of herself. The speaker is a shy, unknown writer who fears rejection above all else.
When I wrote the poem, I was my speaker. As a shy, high school introvert, I struggled expressing myself in front of people. My fear of criticism was debilitating. Like the speaker of my poem, I kept my thoughts locked up in a notebook and shuddered at the thought of letting anyone read my work. Then somehow, my words gave me the courage to share my work.
In the spring of 2010, I submitted this poem to Poetry Matters Contest, telling myself that I had nothing to lose. A month or so later, I received an email congratulating me for winning first place in the high school category for poetry. Before I knew what was happening, I was at the Poetry Matters awards ceremony reading my poem aloud. In that moment, I was reminded that the narrator of my poem takes a stand. My narrator has the power to command speech and is unafraid to speak and reveal her true self. In reality, I was the narrator, and I had the power to speak my mind.
Reading my poem aloud to an audience meant I was vulnerable, but this openness was the start of change. Who knew that this change would lead to future publication? Lucinda Clark, the founder of Poetry Matters and the publisher of P.R.A. Publishing, spoke to me after the ceremony about my writing. This was the first time I had ever considered publishing my work. “Speech of the Masquerade” gave me my poetic voice and offered me the courage to continue writing.
Throughout high school and college, I continued to write. I filled notebooks with poetry. I embarked on the national writing challenge called “National Novel Writing Month” (“NaNoWriMo”). I attended open mics, entered various poetry competitions, and submitted work to literary magazines. In the fall of my freshman year of college, I took a leap of bravery and submitted a query letter to P.R.A Publishing to publish a collection of my poetry. My poetry manuscript titled Speech of the Masquerade is about unmasking the rawness of human emotions. It is about voicing our personal stories, unveiling our beautiful souls, and unmasking ourselves so that the world can see who we are and how we feel.
As I worked with P.R.A on the details going into the publication of my chapbook, I balanced college coursework and continued work on my novel manuscript. For me, I knew my “normal college experience” differed from everyone else’s. Where many of friends relaxed with video games and TV after classes finished for the day, I returned to my dorm room to novel write.
Writing is still an escape for me, and poetry is still my first love. For me, "Speech of the Masquerade" is more than just a poem. "Speech of the Masquerade" is my voice.