Sarah Tsiang

Sarah Tsiang's picture
1978
Biography: 

Sarah Yi-Mei Tsiang is the author of the poetry books Status Update (2013), which was nominated for the Pat Lowther Award and the Gerald Lampert Award–winning Sweet Devilry (2011). Status Update is a book entirely based off of other people’s status updates on Facebook, which serve as the title to each of her poems. Both her books of poetry include lyric poems, as well as poems using such traditional forms as glossa, sonnet, haiku, and many others. She is also the author of several children’s books, including picture books such as A Flock of Shoes, the non-fiction Warriors and Wailers, and the YA novel Breathing Fire. Sarah's work has been published and translated internationally, as well as named to the OLA Best Bets for Children, Best Books for Kids & Teens, and many others. She teaches creative writing through UBC’s optional residency MFA program and is going to be the poetry editor of Arc Magazine in 2020.

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 had no idea where to get poetry when I was in high school. But I have a particularly vivid memory of our grade 12 teacher reading us Lorna Crozier's “Carrots.” It was so illicit and funny and shocking that my breath caught in my throat. I remember thinking that I had no idea poetry could be fun! It wasn't until I was in university that I began to find poetry on my own, after taking a class in creative writing.

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

I never would have become a poet if Sheri Benning hadn't come to my house and broken one of my wine glasses. My partner was attending the University of New Brunswick and we decided to host a little party and invite some of his classmates. Sheri Benning was one of those classmates and she was fun and lovely (and a wee bit clumsy). The day after the party she came by and gave me a copy of her book, as an apology for breaking the glass. Her book was phenomenal. It was everything I didn't know I was missing in my life until the moment I opened it. I couldn't believe that someone so young and goofy and clumsy could be a writer. I had always thought of writers as being kind of old and definitely male. Her book made me want to write; her book compelled me to write. She also became an incredible, generous friend who helped take my bloated and misguided poetry and trim it down to something resembling poems. And that's how I started writing. I didn't think of myself as a poet (it seemed like such a weighted term) until after my first book came out.

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

I think a poet's job is to communicate the beauty and despair that live in just about every ordinary moment. Ideally we try and express things honestly — even when we don't believe in honesty.

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

Bronwen Wallace's “Common Magic.” This is one of my hands-down all time favorites! It's like her words turn my stomach into ice-water and everything, all of sudden, is in tune. Bronwen Wallace is magic — she can express the small moments in our lives that are really the whole of us. Every single line in this poem is perfection.

Publications: 
Title: 
Sweet Devilry
Publisher: 
Oolichan Books
Date: 
2011
Publication type: 
Book
Title: 
Status Update
Publisher: 
Oolichan Books
Date: 
2013
Publication type: 
Book
Poem title(s): 
Visit
Title: 
Best of the Best Canadian Poetry in English
Publisher: 
Tighrope Books
Editors: 
Molly Peacock, Anita Lahey
Date: 
2017
Publication type: 
Anthology