Fiona Tinwei Lam

Fiona Tinwei Lam's picture
Biography: 

Author of two poetry books, Intimate Distances (City of Vancouver Book Prize finalist) and Enter the Chrysanthemum, and the illustrated children's book, The Rainbow Rocket, Fiona Tinwei Lam has also written nonfiction, poetry, and fiction that appears in over 30 anthologiesincluding The Best Canadian Poetry in English (2010). Her poems have twice been selected on BC’s Poetry in Transit and have been aired on CBC Radio. The New Quarterly awarded her the Nick Blatchford Occasional Verse Prize in 2017.  Her poetry videos have been screened at festivals locally and internationally.  She has an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC, and teaches creative writing (poetry) at SFU Continuing Studies.

She writes primarily lyric/narrative poetry, and directed/produced four poetry videos, and has also experimented with concrete/visual poetry. Her main themes include family, love, loss, death, and environmental issues. She competed in CBC’s Poetry Face-Off in the past, and has read at the Vancouver Writers Festival, among many other festivals and events over two decades. fionalam.net

Micro-interview: 
Did you read poetry when you were in high school? Is there a particular poem that you loved when you were a teenager?: 

I read poetry in high school, and enjoyed Margaret Atwood and Sylvia Plath, as well as John Donne, Keats, and some of Shakespeares sonnets. I wish I’d been introduced to more contemporary poets as a teenager, as they would have been much more relevant and more interesting to me as I went through the ups and downs of adolescence. Too much time was spent analyzing meter, and not enough time was spent just enjoying all the ways a poem could be put together. 

When did you first start writing poetry? And then when did you start thinking of yourself as a poet?: 

I started writing poetry in grade two or three. I started considering myself a poet when my poems started to get published in literary magazines.

What do you think a poet’s “job” is?: 

A poet’s mission is to pay attention to what many people overlook, avoid or fail to understand. Mary Oliver noted, “To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.” We need to explore beyond the surface details to find underlying emotional truths, find beauty in the quotidien, or find contradictions — the complex in the simple and the simple in the complex.   

As we try to craft a poem, we are ultimately trying to put “the best words in the best order” as Coledridge put it. 

If you had to choose one poem to memorize from our anthology, which one would it be?: 

It’s a tie between Ocean Vuong’s “Deto(nation)” and Tomasz Rozycki’s “11. Headwinds.

Publications: 
Title: 
Intimate Distances
Publisher: 
Nightwood Editions
Date: 
2002
Publication type: 
Book
Title: 
Enter the Chrysanthemum
Publisher: 
Caitlin Press
Date: 
2009
Publication type: 
Book
Poem title(s): 
Aquarium
Title: 
The Best of the Best Canadian Poetry in English: Tenth Anniversary Edition
Publisher: 
Tightrope Books
Editors: 
Molly Peacock and Anita Lahey
Date: 
2017
Publication type: 
Anthology