Therapeutic Literacy: Stephanie Ambroise's 'Sophrosyne' book of poetry
My friend, Stephanie Ambroise published her first book of poetry and its so deep, so raw and so eloquently produced; I already have funds stored away for her future Pulitzer Prize ceremony!
Listen to the interview below
In 2015, I celebrated the 4th anniversary of my 21st birthday, in other words I turned a quarter century old. Age 25 is scary. Society puts pressure on you to 'figure it out' in terms of your career, family and future. You're young enough to make mistakes but 'mature' enough to have your innocence quickly be taken from you. Your membership to the 'youth' club has been evoked...forever and most 25 year old's even have the audacity to consider themselves "old". Yea being 25 is definitely a major wake up call but it does come with many benefits: you can rent a car! But seriously turning 25 (or any mid-age birthday) allows one to reflect on their lives. For me, the biggest benefit of turning 25 was waking up from my comfortability. Aside from being comfortable but not happy in many aspects of my life, one of the things I eagerly wanted to change was my comfortability with being silent. Now don't get me wrong, I am a fiery Scorpio whenever someone/something dares to attack but what I've learned about myself throughout my childhood, adolescence and now young adulthood is that sometimes I store in my emotions in fear of offending others and thus fail to speak up. This in turn creates a passive aggressive persona which I detest. But one of the good things about getting older is realizing that you can always make a change. You can turn those emotions into something positive, something rewarding; you can create art!
My amazing talented friend Stephanie Ambroise did just that with her 2016 book of poetry entitled, 'Sophrosyne.' 'Sophrosyne is more than just a flow of thought provoking words, its a collection of stories, fears,confessions and aspirations beautifully conveyed to a rhythm of truth and empowerment. The book discusses a variety of topics such as mother-daughter relationships, domestic abuse, mental health,loneliness, love and self confidence to name a few but despite the heavy subjects, reading this entire book will not only leave you wanting to have a conversation about it but also a need to find inner peace.
°Farenheight TV had the blessing to interview the Poet, Artist & Activist, Ms. Stephanie Ambroise to learn more about her process in writing and why she published,Sophrosyne .
Back in college, every time I ran into Stephanie she had an arm full of books and papers so it was no surprise when I found out she published her first book. As an avid fan of her writing, I had to quickly get a copy! As soon as I began to read poem after poem, I immediately stopped and thought, "wow, this is highly disrespectful! How dare Stephanie be so modest about this amazing floetry of words and expect me to read it as if it was an assigned high school essay." As a humble soul, Stephanie casually shared a link to her Amazon account of her book via Facebook. However, after reading, questioning and having deep conversations with myself about the variety of themes and topics in this book; it needed to go viral! No one can casually read a sonnet in this book without reminiscing and connecting the words to your own life. Rather you've been hurt, fell out of love, questioned the world or desired to dream bigger, Sophrosyne can be both a roller coaster of emotions or a therapeutic literary adventure.
So what inspired Stephanie to write 'Sophrosyne' ?
Understanding a poet's writing process is very interesting.They constantly have to balance between being a poet and a person. One day, they can write a poem that sounds like the universal soundtrack to life. Other days, their poetry can sound like an excerpt from their diary. How much does one share? How fully expressive does one want to be? Figuring out that balance has been both a rewarding and difficult experience for Stephanie.
When she wrote this book, she was in a state of mind where she felt free and courageous enough to 'face her demons.' Everything she experienced, she wrote about. Rather uncomfortable or joyous, every emotion was synced with a flood of words. What's interesting about the process to writing Sophrosyne was that initially it wasn't meant to be a book, it sort of just happened. Stephanie explained how the title came to her overnight (3:16 - 4:07). After trying to ignore the piles of poetry scattered across on her bedroom floor, her inner conscious kicked in. "Maybe I should write a book!" And with that Sophrosyne was born!
Sophrosyne which is a combination of nouns, moderation; discretion; prudence, derives from an ancient Greek concept. The idea is that when one has good character and peace of mind, combined together, this leads to other positive qualities within that individual. For Stephanie, creating this book was her personal journey into growing personally, mentally and spiritually. She conveyed that writing for her has to be as authentic as possible or it feels unnatural.
Stephanie recalls how as a young grasshopper, she yearned to want to experience things just so she could write truthfully about it. "I still find it strange but one time on TV, I saw a kid in a wheelchair and I wanted to be in a wheelchair! I wanted to know what it felt like and write about it." This need to connect deeply with topics followed Stephanie until she met a Buddhist monk (4:19-7:56) who challenged her philosophy.
"There's intimacy in not knowing."
This one moment changed Stephanie's life forever. She learned that with age comes patience and a bigger-picture perspective. "Validity doesn't necessarily mean truth." Maybe not knowing or experiencing something yet still writing about it from your perspective could be just as powerful (7:30-9:37).
She also learned the importance of balancing the two clauses and the power she has as a writer. For those who are forced to be silent or are afraid to speak up, their voice still matters! The marginalized or the forgotten don't always have a person who willing to be their advocate. Writing is power!
Poetry has always been Stephanie's outlet for expression and through life's adversities, its also become a tool for self healing. We asked the poet about three of our favorite poems so far to get a better insight of her inspiration behind them.
The first poem of the book is a powerful piece entitled, 'Meteor Showers' (9:45-15:48).
Farah: Why did you start with the poem 'Meteor Showers'?
Stephanie: So the book is called Sophrosyne and its about the state of mental clarity and so I wanted to talk about my family and start off with that struggle.
The poem is about both my destruction and my birth so I wanted to talk about the period of my birth while also talking about my living and how I wanted to die a lot. I figured that would be a great way to start it just so that my mindset could be understood [throughout the book] as you read each story. As well as understanding the mindset of my parents too and how my family felt about me being born and everything like that.
Farah: Can I read to you some of the words that really stood out to me in that poem? So some of the words, it had me thinking about a few different things for instance;
"But all you wanted was to be bigger than something that could be swallowed by the human eye"
"Before you became something that communicated pain"
Farah: Its interesting to me because you're having all these feelings, things have been stored in you from birth and its almost like you feel you're disappointing others.
Of a woman and a man who wished a baby and birthed destruction."
that's like really, really deep to me and I wondered, did you feel like you were disappointing others within your family? or society?
Stephanie: I felt I was disappointing to my family especially because I was told my dad left because of me. I just felt like someone who was a terrible, terrible thing, like my whole existence was just bad. So it effected the way I view myself up until I was 21.
For a long time, I felt like that was inherited in me so working through that and writing about it being able to connect with everything in that way was very powerful for me.
Farenheight TV thanks Ms. Stephanie Ambroise immensely for taking the time to talk to us and share her deepest thoughts about her book of poetry 'Sophrosyne.' Her courage, her boldness and her truth is beyond inspiring.
"This book contains a jagged journey to wholeness. This book is so dangerous, it can only be safe in you hands"
Get your copy of Sophrosyne' on Amazon just in time for the holidays.
Listen to more of Poet, Artists & Activist Stephanie Ambroise's full interview on our Soundcloud.