The decade’s interlude leaves us in suspense
before the final act falls.
Spring goes on without us. The caterpillars,
ripe out of their cocoons,
are eating our misery in weight
and growing too thin for the pendulum of the wind
carried with their wings by flight.
From behind private apartment walls, basement suites,
the cadence of children’s footsteps
pass for May, June, July . . .
It’s getting harder to believe this month,
that God doesn’t exist when I have so much still to ask for.
Can’t tell in this night, where we end,
and the universe begins.
I print out a picture of the sky
into a poem for her, so dark its edges disappear,
fall at the bottom of the inlet.
It will be months before Lao Lao receives it.
The woman writing to us in quarantine
will have run out of pages.
Questions and Answers
Is there a specific moment that inspired you to pursue poetry?
My passion for poetry developed over my last two years of high school, and I can recall a few defining moments that have certainly contributed to this career path. For a time, after I had quit professional ballet in grade ten, I felt really lost in terms of a career and goal trajectory, as well as really stuck creatively. I grew to love English because through discussing the readings in class, and writing, I felt that I was able to express myself again. I also spent a lot of study blocks behind the back row of shelves at my school’s library. It was a quiet, hidden area. A solace and comforting.
In terms of creative writing and poetry, though, I think the people who were the most supportive of me in the beginning were my science teachers. In grade eleven, my biology teacher, Mr. Mayer, took us on a trip to the Bamfield Marine Science Centre. I was so inspired by the marine life and being on the west coast that I wrote my first poem. Mr. Mayer saw it and said some of the kindest words to me; hung the poem up in his classroom when we returned. It meant a lot because it was the first time anyone had ever said they liked my poem. As I began to write more, my physics teacher, Mr. Sheldan, could see that this was what I really wanted to do. He encouraged me to keep writing; was really happy when I shared with him my first essay publication, and when I got accepted into an English program for university. It meant a lot that he was so keen to support me in the direction of my passion for poetry, instead of being too strict with me following the class material.
Around the same time, in one of our year-end provincial exams, we had to analyze the poem, “The Mall,” by Evelyn Lau. I looked Lau up afterward and learned that she was Vancouver’s poet laureate at the time, and that we shared a lot of experiences as both eager young poets, navigating difficult circumstances at home. I saw that she was teaching a six-week poetry course with other poets, Rob Taylor and Fiona Tinwei Lam with SFU Continuing Studies, so I signed up with my lunch money and began attending poetry workshops. Those courses changed everything for me. They were my first exposure to working and studying with professional poets, who taught me how to edit my own work, introduced me to a lot of other poets and their poetry collections, as well as the beautiful poetry communities we have in Vancouver and Ontario.
Do you use any resources that a young poet would find useful?
I’m seeing more and more young poets sharing their work on social media now, and they are all so incredibly talented at sixteen or seventeen! Given the age we are in, I would definitely recommend social media to any poet starting out—it’s a great way to get to know other poets in the community, be on the lookout for upcoming readings and books, literary magazines, agents, and publishers, etc. You can get a lot of information that way, but also, a lot of distractions. It’s all about maintaining a balance.
CBC also has a wonderful, informative guide to most of the major Canadian literary magazines open for submissions: www.cbc.ca/books/canadawrites/a-guide-to-canadian-literary-magazines-and-journals-open-to-submissions-1.4242191
Subscriptions to journals, if you can afford it, are also a great place to start sampling literary work and get a sense of what editors are looking for. At the back of most journals, you can also find many helpful reviews of recently published books, and ads that remind you of upcoming contests and events from other journals.
Chelene Knight, a beloved author and acclaimed author, also has her own online creative writing studio which mentors writers and fosters a sense of community. Some of the memberships and coaching programs require payment, but there are a lot of resources on her site that are free: www.learnwritingessentials.com/
What inspired you to write this poem?
This poem, “Hindsight,” actually started as a ten-page-long poem I wrote trying to capture some of the feelings and uncertainties I was feeling at the start of the pandemic. The fact that the end result is so succinct now goes to show how quickly things seem to have changed over the course of this precarious time. Every time I went back to the poem, what I had previously written didn’t align with my perspectives and feelings anymore. Only a few lines still resonated. As I began to whittle the poem down, these remaining lines are the ones I had left.