Sennah Yee

Sennah Yee's picture
Photo credit: 
Christine Ting Wei Wang
Biography: 
Sennah Yee is from Toronto, where she writes poetry, prose, film criticism, and a blend of all three. She often writes about and is inspired by nostalgia, the internet, and pop culture, and how they seep into the everyday.
 
She is the author of the poetry collection How Do I Look? (Metatron Press), which dissects pop culture through personal anecdotes, and of the children’s book My Day With Gong Gong (Annick Press), a love letter to her grandpa and Chinatown. She is the co-founder and managing editor of the pop culture journal In The Mood Magazine, and a poetry editor at Peach Mag.
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 the most wonderful English/Creative Writing teacher (shout-out to Rose Cullis, also a writer!), but oddly my memory is blanking on poems that we read for school! But I loved looking for poems online. I would copy and paste all my favourites in a Word document, and then periodically post them to my tumblr (RIP). Lots of Marty McConnell, Dorianne Laux, and Dorothea Grossman. As for a particular poem that I loved when I was a teenager, "Scheherazade" by Richard Siken comes to mind!

When did you first start writing poetry? And then when did you start thinking of yourself as a poet?: 
I remember first writing poetry when I was 10 years old. I assembled a collection of rhyming poems I wrote into a 3-ring binder for a class project - my first "book!" It was called "The Poetic Plump Pig," and featured a titular poem with - you guessed it - poetic and plump pig who loved writing poetry. I did the illustrations, too! I remember opening and snapping the binder rings together as I added each page; so satisfying!
 
I don't think I really started thinking of myself as a poet until I was about 21. I was doing my undergrad in Screenwriting, and found myself slowly gravitating away from scripts, and towards poetry as a way to channel my ideas and feelings. Even then, I was pretty shy to label myself as a poet, and still am! I like blending and playing with genre and style, so I often struggle with categories.
What do you think a poet’s “job” is?: 
This is a great question, and I've been chewing on it for a while! I don't think a poet has a "job" - but if they're looking for a motive, or a purpose, I would recommend approaching poetry as a way of seeing, and being looked at. Having control over the gaze, how people perceive you - or do not perceive you - can be very freeing and powerful.
 
Another "purpose" of a poet that I would recommend would be to write for themselves. When I first started writing poetry, I struggled to find my own "voice," mostly because I was caught up thinking about who I was writing for, and wanting to both please and sound like everybody - which is impossible! But once I started writing more truthfully, I felt happier and more fulfilled, both during the writing process itself and sharing my work afterwards.
If you have a poem in our anthology what inspired you to write it?: 
My poem "Internet Safety" was inspired by growing up online in the early 2000s, and using anonymity not only as a protection mechanism, but as an outlet to transform and reinvent myself in a virtual space - for better or worse. I have a lot of nostalgia for that era of internet culture! It felt more private, and yet more freeing - I really felt like I could be(come) whoever I wanted to be.
If you had to choose one poem to memorize from our anthology, which one would it be?: 

I'm a Libra, don't make me choose! Kidding - there are so many I love, but right now I'll choose this excerpt from Citizen by Claudia Rankine. I love her everyday, yet striking and memorable imagery; how she uses restraint to run free.

Publications: 
Title: 
How Do I Look?
Publisher: 
Metatron Press
Editors: 
Jay Ritchie
Date: 
2017
Publication type: 
Book
Title: 
My Day With Gong Gong
Publisher: 
Annick Press
Editors: 
Claire Caldwell
Date: 
2020
Publication type: 
Book
Title: 
Deep Web
Publisher: 
The Vault by With/out Pretend
Editors: 
Erin Pehlivan & Najla Nubyanluv
Date: 
2019
Publication type: 
Book