Community Garden

Jen Sookfong Lee

There, the bolting black kale,

taller than it has any right to be

and not the twitter troll who asked

if you were on your period.

 

In the corner, a pile of dead

zucchini leaves, spotted with rot

and not the neighbour who yelled

at you about a parking stall.

 

Lining the sidewalk, invasive

creeping charlie and not

your mother complimenting

your ex-husband’s new wife.

Dive in

 

  1. List the plants that are mentioned in the poem. What do they signify?
  2. List the moments you find humorous in the poem. What makes them humorous?
  3. There are undercurrents of bitterness and rage found in the poem. How does the poet express these two emotions implicitly and explicitly?
  4. How does the poem express moments of calm and serenity? Share a time in your life when you sought or found peace after conflict?
  5. The poem’s verses can be read as having two phases: the set up, the punchline. For example:

 

The set up:

 

There, the bolting black kale,

taller than it has any right to be

The punchline:

and not the twitter troll who asked

if you were on your period.

How would your reading translate these two parts to show that they both complement and contradict one another? Think of the facial expressions and gestures you might use to do so.

 

Writing Activity

 

The poem can be read as a “retort” poem. Thinking about moments in your life when you wished you had said something back. Write a poem expressing what you would have said in that present moment.

 

Suggested Template: 

 

I wish I had said…when you said…

I wish I had done…when you did…

 

Useful Links

 

  1. Poetry London Online with Jen Sookfong Lee: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyQSBOzLXpU
  2. Ottawa Public Library with Jen Sookfong Lee: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=jen+sookfong+lee+
  3. Author Interview: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=jen+sookfong+lee+reading+p…

 

 

Dive In written by
Bibliographical info

Jen Sookfong Lee, "COMMUNITY GARDEN" from The Shadow List : Poems. Copyright © 2021 by Jen Sookfong Lee. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

Source: The Shadow List : Poems (Buckrider books, Wolsak and Wynn Publishers, 2021)

 

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