Fiona Tinwei Lam
Author of three poetry books and an illustrated children's book, Fiona Tinwei Lam's nonfiction, poetry, and fiction appear in over 40 anthologies, including The Best Canadian Poetry in English (2010 & 2020 editions). Her work has been shortlisted for the City of Vancouver Book Award. Her poems have been thrice featured on BC’s Poetry in Transit and have been aired on CBC Radio. Fiona teaches creative writing (poetry) at SFU Continuing Studies. She has edited and co-edited anthologies of poetry and nonfiction, including The Bright Well: Contemporary Canadian Poems about Facing Cancer (Leaf Press).
She writes primarily lyric/narrative poetry, and has collaborated on six poetry videos that have been selected for screening at festivals locally and internationally, garnering awards at festivals in Houston and Minneapolis. 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, Anne Hebert, 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, and wrote a lot during high school at Eric Hamber. I started considering myself a poet when my poems started to get published in literary magazines.
A poet’s mission is to express the inexpressible and 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 Coleridge put it.