Read Surveys (By Author)

Souvankham Thammavongsa

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

When I’ve written something I really like. It makes me feel like I’ve given myself something no one else could.

2. Do you notice women on the street? If so, what sort of women do you tend to notice or admire?

I notice women who are well-groomed and dress like they’ve just had a business meeting and got everything they wanted. I notice quiet confidence in women.

3. What are some things you admire about how other women present themselves?

I admire the way they walk in a crowd. I always step out of people's way or move aside to let others pass or hold open doors. I want to be the one who walks through the door, instead of the one who opens it.

4. Was there a moment in your life when something “clicked” for you about fashion or dressing or make-up or hair? What? Why did it happen then, do you think?

When I was eleven, I looked in the mirror and looked at every part of my face. My hair, the shape of my eyes, my eyelashes, my nose, my lips—and I liked how they all came together to make my face. I decided I was going to let these things come together to make what they doing and not cover it up with makeup and hairspray or clothes that took away from that. I think it happened because it was around the age where you start to notice yourself because you are changing in so many ways, and I wanted to hold on to what wouldn’t change: that I liked myself.

5. What are some shopping rules you wouldn’t necessarily recommend to others but which you follow?

Don’t ever buy anything expensive.

6. What are some rules about dressing you follow, but you wouldn't necessarily recommend to others?

I would not recommend wearing loose clothing like big sweaters to hide yourself. I wouldn’t recommend wearing flip-flops ever but I wear them at home in the summer because it’s easy. I wouldn’t recommend wearing bangs because they are difficult to maintain.

7. What is the most transformative conversation you have ever had on the subject of fashion or style?

A friend of mine had expensive taste and when I spent time with her, she would take me into all these stores I would be too afraid to go into, and she'd tell me to try things on. Quality clothes are expensive but they also last forever, she’d say. She taught me to care about my body—keep it healthy, go to the gym because whatever you put on, whether cheap or expensive, will look great on you. Always have your clothes tailored if they don't fit right and to save money by taking sewing classes. She also taught me to care for my hair and skin and nails. You could put on the fanciest thing and if you don't take care of those things then nothing will look good. She would take me into stores and order people around to bring me clothes. She'd show me what looked good on me and what colours worked best—and she wasn't afraid to say to me, "Are you wearing that ugly sweater again?" She always insisted I try things on and I was always surprised that something looked good on me or didn’t. She also helped me throw away my clothes. Some items are too full of memories of who you were and who you were with—you have to throw them away. I bought this beautiful dress once, hoping to wear it for a special occasion with the person I loved but then he stopped loving me before we had an occasion to go to. Every time I opened the closet and I saw this dress, I was reminded that I wasn’t loved and the occasion I was waiting for never happened. I didn’t want this sad memory or for it to be on a stranger. So I threw it away.

8. Do you have a unified way of approaching your life, work, relationships, finances, chores, etc.? Please explain.

I try to keep it simple and do the best with what I know and with what is in front of me. When I write, it is about things that are right in front of me that everyone else can see too. In my finances, I know all the advice and all the predictions that investors are chatting about. Sometimes they are right and sometimes they’re not. It’s a gamble. I can’t afford to take that kind of risk or gamble so I never invest. I just put it in my retirement fund and let it sit there. Good old-fashioned saving works for me. As for relationships and friendships, I like them to value simple things like loyalty and being kind and laughter. When I first met my husband and was beginning to like him, I said to him, “Now, I need to know this. This one thing: are you a one-at-a-time kind of man?” I used to be with someone who was not because he thought it was more profound to keep grabbing at multitudes. Always wanting the “better” or more “cool” thing. There was always someone more beautiful, younger, smarter, talented, cool, or just plain new, or someone coming who was going to be that. No matter what I wrote, wore, or thought, it never made me feel beautiful, attractive, or timeless at the time. What seemed to be profound were the simple things I have always valued like being loyal and kind. I figured that out for myself real quick and I went out to find it even though nothing about the universe or my experience of it, at the time, said I would. Finding that simplicity, that loyalty, that kindness—that was profound.

9. Are there any clothing (or related) items that you have in multiple? Why do you think you keep buying this thing?

I have a lot of black tops. I buy this thing because, hell, I look good in it.

10. Have you ever successfully given someone a present of jewelry or clothing that you continue to feel good about?

A friend gave me a navy dress with white polka dot prints that she wore on her first date with a man who later became her husband. I was touched that she would give this to me and we didn’t even know each other very well. I had to take it in to fit me but I never did. Every time I thought of fixing the dress to my size, I would be haunted by this beautiful story, this power. Later, when we became really good friends she asked for the dress back because she thought it would be weird if suddenly I showed up with this dress and all her memories. I was very happy to give it back to her and was glad I never changed what she gave me.

11. Is there any fashion trend you’ve refused to participate in and why? 

Sky-high heels. I just can’t walk in them.

12. Can you say a bit about how your mother’s body and style has been passed down to you, or not?

My mom is small and thin. She never complains about the way she looks or the way she dresses. If something doesn’t fit, she makes it herself or she figures it out. I’m glad for that.

13. Have you stolen, borrowed or adapted any dressing ideas or actual items from friends or family?

I’ve worn a lot of my mother’s dresses. The ones she made herself. They fit me better than store-bought ones and I can smell her in them. I remember I wore a dress of hers to prom. It was white lace. I didn’t worry that someone else would have the same dress and I knew I looked good in it because my mother did.

14. Was there a point in your life when your style changed dramatically? What happened?

When I was seven, I wore dresses my mother made for me. They looked exactly like the dresses she made for herself. I loved them. They were light and airy and no one at school wore anything like that. Then, I started to grow breasts. I stopped wearing them after that. My mother also stopped make me dresses because she stopped making dresses for herself. I wore large sweatshirts and baggy jeans to hide everything that was changing.

15. Is there anything political about the way you dress?

I think about being sensitive to a culture and its fashion. If you don’t know what a particular dress is for don’t just wear it out. I wouldn’t want someone to wear a sihn that didn’t know what it meant to be wearing one all their life. In this same way, I wouldn’t wear a sari or a kimono unless people who have been wearing them all their lives insisted it would be offensive if I didn’t for an event to which I have been invited.

16. Please describe your body.

I'm small. I am four feet, eleven inches. I think I have big breasts but I am told they are not all that big by my friends. I have long, graceful fingers. I broke one once and the doctor in the emergency asked me if I was a pianist. I liked the idea that the way a part of the body was shaped, could be life-determining or could tell a story you never imagined for yourself.

17. Please describe your mind.

It's very quiet. Not because it isn't thinking but because it is and when it is it's quiet.

18. Please describe your emotions.

I feel like a jellyfish. I try not to think in ways that undermine myself or to feel too much that things are unbearable. I like the jellyfish because it has no brain or heart. It's just a thing that takes in the ocean through its mouth. I like that kind of ambition and simplicity.

19. What are you wearing on your body and face, and how is your hair done, right at this moment?

My hair is tied up in a messy top-knot. I have tinted moisturizer on and lip balm. I am wearing a navy blue pencil skirt that is tulip-shaped in the front, a simple black cotton top, a black fitted blazer, and black flats.

20. In what way is this stuff important, if at all?

You really get to know people with the choices they’ve made or the choices they couldn’t make or don’t know how to make.

21. With whom do you talk about clothes?

The people who sell them. I can tell if they don't know what they are talking about.

22. How do institutions affect the way you dress?

They make you look and sound like everyone else. Sometimes it is for safety and for order. I’m not a rebel. I want to feel safe and ordered.

23. Do you think you have taste or style? Which one is more important? What do these words mean to you?

I think I have taste and I try to choose things to style and fit that taste. I think taste is more important. Style can change and be influenced or persuaded by other things but your taste is forever like your soul. Taste is like the bubble in the level. You measure everything else by that. Style is a thing that's outside of you, changing and flowing like clouds and weather. Style doesn't think about you or what you want.

24. Do you remember the biggest waste of money you ever made on an item of clothing?

No. I don’t waste money like that.

25. Are there any dressing tricks you’ve invented or learned that make you feel like you’re getting away with something?

I like that there are no women like me in popular fashion magazines or the movies. I never feel like I’m ugly or that there should be a way to look because no one is telling me this. I feel like I can get away with anything.

26. Do you have style in any areas of your life aside from fashion?

I have a writing style. My poems are small and very bare. They aren't concerned with being beautiful or make an aim for it. I use a lot of ugly words that hold everything together. I use words like “this,” “that,” “here,” “there,” “the,” “a,” “not,” “is”—these words are not beautiful and carry no meaning in themselves. If the poems are thought of as beautiful, it’s what this ugliness manages to do with what’s around it, what they manage to hold together long enough.

27. Can you recall some times when you have dressed a particular way to calm yourself or gain a sense of control over a situation that scared you?

Yes! I am really scared of doing public readings. If it's in a bar I'm afraid a drunk person will tell me to show them my tits rather than listen to what I have privately loved and written so I'll wear a sweater over whatever I'm wearing even if the temperature is really hot. Once, I dressed myself like a teenager because I was staying out late to give a reading. I thought this would prevent men from approaching me in a bar and it did work. And when I was walking home, a car full of young men, started to call me sexy and talk about my body that made me feel scared. So, I turned to them and said, “I’M TWELVE!” Then, they stopped, rolled up their windows and sped away. I felt in control.

28. Would you say you “know what you like” in the area of fashion and clothing? If so, do you also know what you like in other areas of life, that is, are you generally good at discernment? Can you say where your discernment comes from, if you have it? Or if you don’t have it, why or why not?

I know what I like. I think it comes from my mom. She didn’t know how to read or to speak English really well and so she would rely on other ways of reading, like reading people, how they dressed, the tone of their voice, how they smelled, their smile. I can read the way she does too. People don’t tell you who they really are. You have to figure that out. I write like the way I read. I pay attention to words and think about them, what they do, what they can’t do, what they don’t do. In the area of friendship, I stopped being friends with someone and a number of years later other friends stopped being friends with this same person. I did this much sooner than the others. The others, over the years, had accepted bad behaviour that cost them. When they got out, they always wanted to talk to me about their time there and how I knew when to leave. I did, for a while, but I was tired of explaining how or why. Sometimes you just know.

29. Did your parents teach you things about clothing, care for your clothing, dressing or style? What lessons do you remember? Or did you just pick things up?

I always threw away underwear if there was a menstrual stain because I didn’t want my father, who did the laundry, to know. He found them in the garbage and taught me how to wash them and get the stain out. My parents also did not buy a lot of clothes for me. I mostly had one or two things and slept in my underwear. It was easy on them this way because they didn't spend a lot of money on clothes for me and I could dress myself and not get it wrong as a kid.

30. What sorts of things do you do, clothing or make-up or hair- wise, to feel sexy or alluring?

I don’t feel sexy or alluring if I spend my time and energy on makeup or hair so I like to go to the spa or salon to get a professional to do all that. Then, I just wear my favourite dress and think of something funny to say.

31. Many people say they want to feel “comfortable,” or that they admire people who seem “confident.” What do these words really mean to you?

I think they are two parts of the same thing. A person who is comfortable is confident and a confident person is comfortable. Comfortable means not complaining or grabbing at others about the choices you’ve made and confident is getting on with it.

32. If dressing were the only thing you did, and you were considered an expert and asked to explain your style philosophy, what would you say?

I’m like a circle-maker. The line I drew to make the circle doesn’t always have to be perfect or the same. The point is to get back, to go back to the beginning to close it.

33. What is really beautiful, for you, in general?

Wrinkles on a face. I can see where the laughter has been.

34. What do you consider very ugly?

Beauty. The kind that is always telling you what you should be and leaves no room for yours.

35. Are you generally a good judge of whether what you buy will end up being worn? Have you figured out how to know in advance?

Yes. I know because I’ve had something like it before and have loved it deeply.

36. When you look at yourself before going out, and you are trying to see yourself from the outside, can you describe a bit about what this “other person” is like? What do they like, dislike, what sorts of judgments do they have? Is this “outer eye” based on someone you know or once knew?

I was at a party and I was having a conversation with someone there. She was really tall and had to bend down to talk to me. A bit into the conversation, she started laughing and said, “I love how you’re so short, and you’re all like ‘Yah! So what I’m short. I got a bigger dick than you. Deal with it, man.’” I never thought of myself that way or that I seem to be saying that. I think she meant she had to bend down to talk to me and I did nothing to meet her half-way. And that not apologizing or trying to meet her half-way said something fundamental about me. I felt she understood me even though I never set out to say it that way.

37. What is your process getting dressed in the morning? What are you considering?

I think about skin care first. I look at my face. Did a pimple pop up? Where is it? What should I use to cover it with: a concealer or medication? How is the area under my eyes? Are they dark or puffy or do they need to be moisturized? Then I take care of my teeth. I think about what I'm doing for the day, who I will see, and the weather. I think about the neighbourhood, whether I will feel safe there or not. I think about the kind of transit I will be in and what I will be carrying around with me that day.

38. What are you trying to achieve when you dress?

Comfort and simplicity.

39. What, for you, is the difference between dressing and dressing up?

The shoes you wear, how your hair is styled, makeup.

40. If you had to wear a “uniform” what would it look like?

Black top, black pencil skirt, black flats.

41. What would you say is “you” and what would you say is “not you”?

Simplicity is me and “too much” and loud is not me.

42. What is your cultural background and how has that influenced how you dress?

My family is from Laos. I have always longed to own a sihn. I remember my mom wearing it to the temple but I can’t just go out and buy that. I wish I had a sihn to wear, especially when I got married. Whenever I get dressed for a Lao event, I often feel like people there will think I am ashamed about where I come from or that I am not truly Lao because I don’t have the clothes Lao people wear. It isn’t true. I am very proud but my clothes don’t show that.

43. Do you remember a time in your life when you dressed quite differently from how you do now? Can you describe it and what it was all about for you?

I always wore baggy sweaters to hide my body. I didn't like that I couldn't be in control of who was looking at me and in what kind of way. This changed when I got married. I felt like I didn't need to hide myself anymore because I granted this person the power to see me. I stopped caring about the gaze of others.

44. What sorts of things do you do, clothing, make-up or hair-wise, to feel professional?

Clothes all pressed and smooth; clean and shiny hair; good skin; eyebrows and upper lip threaded; something interesting to say. I do this even if I don't feel like it or have to. A professional is prepared at all times.

45. How do you conform to or rebel against the dress expectations at your workplace?

I wear clothes that look like I work in an office. That is, I conform, and that makes me look like I actually rebel where I work because there are no expectations.

50. Do you ever wish you were a man or could dress like a man or had a man’s body? Was there ever a time in the past?

Yes. When I saw this ugly old-ass man in dirty jeans and a frumpy shirt give an awful poetry reading at this coveted venue and then be admired and loved by a group of young beautiful people. I ACTUALLY have to be brilliant to get that and look good too.

51. If there was one country or culture or era that you had to live in, fashion-wise, what would it be?

Now and in Canada. I love cozy sweaters and the technological power of winter coats.

52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?

No. A photograph never catches the life-force I have when I'm with the people I love or when I'm looking in the mirror and can see myself.

53. When you see yourself in photographs, what do you think?

My cheeks are really big, like I am hoarding peanuts for the winter, and I am always scowling and looking unfriendly or sad. Sometimes I think the shape of my head is so big and round it looks like a volleyball—like the one in the movie “Cast Away,” that Tom Hanks called “Wilson.” When I see my head in a photograph, I often think of how much I look like Wilson. I’m loyal and warm and funny and a photograph never catches that.

54. Are there any figures from culture, past or present, whose style you admire or have drawn from?

Audrey Hepburn. So clean. Lauren Bacall. Her hair and quiet confidence. Her beautiful and commanding and deep voice. Her moxie.

55. Have you ever had a dream that involved clothes?

My mom always told me that when you have a dream of someone getting dressed up that means they will become very ill or something about their health isn’t right. When I dream I am ugly and look horrible, I feel good because it means I’m healthy and well. Or when I dream the people I love look terrible and scary, I wake up thinking they are all doing fine or will be. I once dreamt my great grandmother was young and she was all dressed up in a fancy wedding dress. She passed away shortly after that.

56. What would be a difficult or uncomfortable look for you to try and achieve?

The stripper-look. It’s not practical or money-making for what I do.

57. If you were totally comfortable with your body, or your body was a bit closer to what you wish it was like, what would you wear?

A navy officer’s all-white uniform.

59. Are there any dressing rules you’d want to convey to other women?

Please wear a bra in an office environment. If you are going to wear shoes that show your toenails, please get a pedicure. Don’t wear thermal T-shirts that change colour. I wore one for a school presentation and only the breast area changed colour. I wish someone told me that.

60. What do you think of perfume? Do you wear it?

I don’t like heavy scents. My favourite is Lemon Sugar by Fresh.

61. What are some things you need to do to your body or clothes in order to feel presentable?

Be clean. Take a bath and shave. No wrinkles on the fabric.

62. How does makeup fit into all this for you?

I don’t like makeup because it dries up my skin. I am really into skin-care. I don’t have a set routine to follow. I adapt it to what’s happened that day. I pay attention to what time of season it is and what I did or will do during the day. In late or early summer, when things are blooming and buzzing, I am allergic to tree pollen so I will often breakout in a rash. I have to see where those breakouts happen and apply medication to it at night. If there is no rash and the day has been hot then I will wear a serum at night. If it’s been cold then I will wear a night moisturizer. If I have spent a lot of time in the sun because I’ve been gardening or on vacation, I will put a moisturizer on before I go to bed that keeps my tan and heals the sun damage. For the day, in any season, I moisturize but I use a tinted moisturizer with sun protection so I don’t have to think about makeup. It’s a two-step thing done at once, saving me time. I also think about what I did that day: did I fry something like bacon or potatoes, walk through a construction site, did I spend time in a dusty basement, have I stood outside talking to friends who were smoking—if I have then I will exfoliate and use a cleanser with scrubbing beads to get into the pores. I think if I pay attention to my skin and it looks great, I don’t need makeup or if I do, I can buy cheap drugstore brands because underneath the makeup all the work has been done.

63. Is there a certain look you feel you’re expected to like that you have absolutely no interest in? What is it? Why aren’t you interested?

The school girl look. I am short and people have trouble telling how old I am. I don’t want to be mistaken for a young girl. I want to get old and older.

64. Can you describe in a basic way what you own, clothing and jewelry-wise?

The only jewelry I own is my watch and wedding ring. I used to live in a dangerous part of the city so not wearing jewelry became a kind of habit. I have pieces which I don't think will go out of style. I have jeans, a lot of pencil skirts, blouses, gym clothes. They are solid colours in black, white, grey, navy blue—rarely is there a print or bright colour. I do own a fall coat that is bright orange but I haven't worn that.

65. What is your favorite piece of clothing or jewelry that you own?

My watch. It’s so useful and it isn’t loud with whatever I wear it with.

66. Tell us about something in your closet that you keep but never wear. What is it, why don’t you wear it, and why do you keep it?

A white dress I wore for the wedding ceremony at City Hall. It doesn’t fit anymore but I keep it because of all the memories. I can’t give it away because my memories make it have meaning in the world. I don’t want it to have a different meaning somewhere else.

67. Looking back at all your purchases over the past five to fifteen years, can you generalize about what sorts of things were the most valuable to buy?

The things that I never replaced or ever stopped loving. The things that have memories and meaning attached to them.

68. Is there an item of clothing that you once owned, but no longer own, and still think about or wish you had back? What was it, what happened to it, and why do you want it back?

No. If I no longer own it, there’s a reason for that.

69. If you had to throw out all your clothes but keep one thing, what would you keep?

The limited edition black Roland Mouret dress made for Banana Republic. I can’t ever buy a real Roland Mouret.

70. Building up your wardrobe from nothing, what would you do differently this time?

I would only buy things I absolutely love.

71. What’s the first “investment” item you bought? Do you still own or wear it?

A black leather Gucci shoulder bag. I saved up for it for many, many years. I used to buy a new purse every year under $40 and then it would fall apart in a few months or lose its structured shape. This one has kept its shape and no matter what I put inside, it doesn’t take the shape of what’s inside. It is its own shape always. It distributes the weight inside evenly and in a way that doesn’t pull at my shoulder and leave a red mark. It also doesn’t have any big Gucci symbol. The name is carved into the buckle in very tiny letters. I have not bought a new purse since I got this one.

72. Was there ever an important or paradigm-shifting purchase in your life?

The Gucci shoulder bag.

73. What item of clothing are you still (or have you forever been) on the hunt for?

Lao clothing. Especially the sihn.

74. What are your closet and drawers like? Do you keep things neat, etc?

Neat and clean. Ordered according to the season.

75. Were you ever given a present of clothing or jewelry that especially touched you?

My husband bought me suede loafers. Their comfort and sensibility really touched me. It wasn’t for him. It was for me and my comfort. I was first.

76. Did you ever buy an article of clothing without giving it much thought, only to have it prove much more valuable as time went on? What was the item and what happened?

I bought a winter coat that was really warm and practical. It’s a winter coat most people in Canada wear. It became very valuable to me when it would be a blanket or a pillow on very cold nights. I still have it and won’t throw it away.

77. How and when do you shop for clothes?

I like to shop by myself. I don’t like to go with friends. I shop four times a year but only to add something to update what I already have.

78. Do you like to smell a certain way?


79. How does how you dress play into your ambitions for yourself?

I am more ambitious than the way I dress.

80. How does money fit into all this?

I don’t have a lot of it. I wait for things to go on sale. If they don’t have it in my size, then I tell myself it wasn’t meant to be, or I buy it in a bigger size and tailor it myself. I pay attention to the fabric and how it is sewed. I don’t like fabric I can’t take care of and I don’t like things I can’t mend or knock-off when it falls apart. I never use my husband’s money. I take great pride that I buy my own underwear and clothes with the money I have made however little that is—it’s all MINE.

81. Is there an article of clothing, a piece of make-up, or an accessory that you carry with you or wear every day?

My watch and Kiehl's lip balm.

82. Did anyone ever say anything to you that made you see yourself differently, on a physical and especially sartorial level?

In high school, some girls called me “ugly.” I didn’t know them. It hurt my feelings at the time but then after a while I did not mind it because I thought it could be true and what’s wrong with that? I wouldn’t know what to do if they had called me “pretty.”

83. Do you remember the first time you were conscious of what you were wearing? Can you describe this moment and what it was about?

Picture Day in kindergarten. I wore a green jogging suit and blue slip-on running shoes. Everyone in the class was all dressed up. The girls in pink dresses and the boys in black suits with bow ties. I looked down at my knees, the fabric was thinner there and when I stood up the fabric took the shape of my knees so I tried to smooth them out for the class photo. There is one other girl in the class photo not wearing a pink dress. She wore a pale yellow turtleneck sweater tucked into brown pants like a grown-up. She was my best friend.

What’s your birth date? 
Where were you born and where do you live now?

August, 1978. I was born in a refugee camp in Nong Khai, Thailand. I lived in Toronto for almost thirty years and now live in Stouffville.

Say anything you like about your cultural/ethnic/economic background.

I care a lot about being clean and feeling clean because when I was a teenager, my parents sold our home and we lived in a van, until their sign-making business started up. I remember not having a shower and having to wait to go to school to brush my teeth. My mother wasn’t very strict with me about grooming or clothes. I didn’t know I was supposed to shave my legs until a guy in gym class I was sitting next to looked down at our legs and said, “Yo girl, you gotta shave that thing. I couldn’t tell which were my legs!” My mom didn’t take me to buy a bra. I had to ask her to after a guy at school said my tits were really big and I needed support. And, when I had my period, when I was nine years old, I thought it was a leech and asked my mother to take it out for me. She took one look at me, turned back to her cooking, with one loud hack of a cleaver, and said, “You have your period. Go put a pad on.” She also always had cheap maxi pads. The kind that got wet and then the glue would come undone. I had one fall out during gym class. It wasn’t until I was fourteen that I discovered there was such thing as pads with wings that protect the underwear and also secured it all there. It came in a pink box that we all had to buy in grade nine at school. Inside was also shaving gel and deodorant. My mother used soap to shave and just wiped her armpits with soap rubbed into a cloth. This same soap bar was used by the whole family. Deodorant, shaving gel, maxi pads with wings were expensive extra things.

What kind of work do you do?

I work in publishing, for an investment newspaper, in the research department. I’ve been there for almost thirteen years. I have also written a few poetry books.

Are you single, married, do you have kids, etc.?

Married with no kids.

Please say anything you like about yourself that might put this survey into some sort of context.

Although it might shock or make other women judge my mother for not taking me aside to tell me how to groom myself or to talk to me about my period and celebrate it or to teach me how to cook and clean the house, I think my mother loved me deeply and she gave me something by not doing that: a strong and bright mind of my own. A chance to figure it out on my own. However terrible or good I was at those things, I was responsible. I think I was left to lend my mind space for other things. I don’t think my mother gave me “less.” To my parents, success was the simple act of living and being able to live. It wasn’t clothes or furniture or the house to own or the China set on display. Those things are great to have too but just living, when it’s hard, is good enough.

How do you feel after filling out this survey?

Amazed. I can’t believe how these simple and general questions about clothes could lead me to think so deeply about what I've done and how I got here or where I'm from.


Souvankham Thammavongsa's most recent and third poetry book is Light (Pedlar Press, 2013), winner of the Trillium Book Award for Poetry.

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