Pim Wangtechawat on Uncovering the Beauty in Brokeness and Heartbreak in Her Poetry

Pim Wangtechawat (she/her) is a writer from Bangkok with a master’s in creative writing from Edinburgh Napier University. Her writing has been published in various places, including Mekong Review, Nikkei Asian Review, and The Selkie. She has performed her poetry at events in Edinburgh hosted by Shoreline of Infinity and the Scottish BAME Writers Network and has given talks about her writing at Chulalongkorn University and Ruamrudee International School. She is working on her debut novel The Moon Represents My Heart and is represented by Liza DeBlock of Mushens Entertainment.

Pim Wangtechawat’s poems “My Sisters and I” and “Hua Hin” are published in Capsule Stories Autumn 2021 Edition: Dancing with Ghosts. “My Sisters and I” talks of heartbreak, loneliness, and the bond of sisterhood, while “Hua Hin” is all about her grandmother.

Capsule Stories: Where did the idea for the poem “My Sisters and I” come from? What drew you to exploring the bond of sisterhood and heartbreak and loneliness?

Pim Wangtechawat: The poem was inspired by a night out I had with my two younger sisters a couple of years ago in Bangkok. (We aren’t blood-related, but we grew up together and have always referred to each other as “sisters.”) It was a very strange time in my life. I just came back from London, where I spent three years completing my undergrad degree, and I was still nursing a long-term heartbreak. We spent the night talking, reminiscing, and driving around listening to music. I remember feeling this intense loneliness when talking about what I was going through, but there was also immense gratitude for the fact that I was surrounded by women who knew me so well. With them, I could be as heartbroken, sad, and lonely as I felt. As much as I was struggling, there’s so much value in having people in your life you can be totally vulnerable with. 

Capsule Stories: “My Sisters and I” is structured in five prose paragraphs, counting down from five to one, with one-line parenthetical asides following each paragraph. Why did you structure the poem this way? What effect do you hope it has on readers?

Pim Wangtechawat: Thank you so much for asking about the structure of the poem! It’s actually a choice I’m very proud of! Since I wrote it a long time ago, I cannot recall where I found the inspiration for this structure. All I know was that I wanted to capture the nature of how we have deep conversations with our loved ones. Sometimes we start with the surface-level stuff first, and the more we keep talking, the more we begin to unpack the layers and go deeper into the heart of what we’re really trying to say. Hence the countdown from five to one. The one-line parenthetical asides are the secret things we are too scared to even tell those closest to us. They are the whispers, or the truths, we only dare utter in very rare moments.

5. We drive and drive until we find a place where we can park and drink. We order nachos and onion rings and glasses of beer and vodka. I would prefer whiskey, but I have to drive. We are all a little jaded, a little short-changed, a little lost in the big city, in the whirlwind of early adulthood. Our twenties are more unkind than films and TV shows have promised them to be. We think we are grown-ups now.

(sort of, a little, maybe not at all.)

4. We talk about random things. Why men aren’t like the men we imagine in our heads. Why we don’t keep in touch anymore with the people we love. Why we need to get out of here—find new places to visit and appreciate. We mix the guacamole, the salsa, the cheese. We spin it all around and we laugh. We find nobody else funny anymore.

(and if we do, we don’t say it.)

3. We talk about love and loss. We laugh about other girls because we are bitter and we’ve had a couple of drinks. Yes, the dull ache is still there, we say. The dull ache which means the want, the longing, the pain, the missing something we never had. Maybe we will be alone forever. Maybe we won’t find anyone else. The future does not look too bright.

(if we think about it too much, we wouldn’t be here.)

Capsule Stories: “My Sisters and I” ends with the line “it is better to be broken together than not to be broken at all.” Tell us about this line and its significance to you.

Pim Wangtechawat: This is actually one of my favorite lines I’ve ever written! This line is very significant to me because I believe it truly captures how I want to approach life and my relationships with people. All of us have our broken, damaged sides. We all have our baggage. And in life we’re going to go through so much heartbreak. But what I find quite astounding is that out of our brokenness, there can still be something beautiful and valuable to be found in the wreckage.

When I look back on my life, and on times when I felt broken, I realize that those were the times that changed me for the better. The growth that I went through, the empathy that I’ve found for myself and others, how I view the world—these are things that wouldn’t have become a part of who I am if it weren’t for my being “broken” at one point or another. Going through tough times together, and forming genuine and compassionate connections out of those tough times, are things that I find so hopeful about us as human beings. It is just remarkable that, despite all the pain, we have the ability to do that. 

Capsule Stories: In “Hua Hin,” you write about your relationship with your grandmother and explore the regret of not asking her more questions: “I should have / asked her every question under the sun / instead of just / kissing her on the cheek / sitting down at her feet / and watching TV.” How do you balance the regret of feeling like you didn’t ask enough questions about someone’s life with simply wanting to exist with them in the present moment before they’re gone? Did capturing that inner conflict in a poem help?

Pim Wangtechawat: Losing a grandparent can be quite difficult; even if you weren’t close to them, it can feel like a connection to your past is now irrevocably severed. 

I do have regrets about not finding out more about my grandparents’ lives before they passed away, and writing the poem has really helped me express that. But I don’t think there was any “conflict” in that regard when I was younger. I suppose when you’re a child, your grandparents are just your grandparents. You don’t necessarily think of them the same way you think about them now when you’re an adult.

Capsule Stories: How do these poems speak to our theme Dancing with Ghosts?

Pim Wangtechawat: When I saw the theme Dancing with Ghosts, I immediately thought of submitting these two poems. The theme really evokes feelings of nostalgia. Of loss. Of longing for something that’s not tangible. Of not being able to completely make peace with our past. These two poems have those things in abundance! It’s the in-between space, isn’t it? Kind of like autumn as a season! But then you go through it. You come out the other side, and you return to the real world. 

Capsule Stories: Why do you write?

Pim Wangtechawat: Writing as a career is filled with so much rejection and imposter syndrome that I’ve been trying to remind myself of my answer for the last couple of months! At the most basic level, I write because I have to. I write so that I can make sense of what I’m feeling, what I’m going through, and what I’m learning. I also write to reflect our shared human experiences. I’m just obsessed with storytelling! I think it is just so powerful! I always think of the books that I loved to read while growing up. If my writing could inspire someone in that way, or to help someone feel less alone even for one moment, then I’d have done my job. 

Capsule Stories: What are you working on next?

Pim Wangtechawat: My novel, The Moon Represents My Heart, is inspired by my Chinese family history and tells the story of a family of time travelers! I always say that it is like The Joy Luck Club meets The Time Traveler’s Wife. I can’t give away the whole premise, but the book is currently out on submission right now, so I’m keeping all my fingers crossed that people will get to read it one day!

I’ve also started prewriting my second novel. I can’t say too much about it since it’s very, very early stages. Only that it’s a romance!

You can find Pim Wangtechawat online at pimwangtechawat.net, and you can follow her on Twitter at @PimsupaW and on Instagram at @pim.wangtechawat.

Pim Wangtechawat
Pim Wangtechawat

Read Pim Wangtechawat’s poems “My Sisters and I” and “Hua Hin” in Capsule Stories Autumn 2021 Edition: Dancing with Ghosts, available in paperback and ebook worldwide.

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