Fiona Tinwei Lam
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 anthologies, including 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
I read poetry in high school, and enjoyed Margaret Atwood and Sylvia Plath, as well as John Donne, Keats, and some of Shakespeare’s 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.
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.
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.