Jen Sookfong Lee was born and raised in Vancouver’s East Side, and she now lives with her son in North Burnaby. Her books include The Conjoined, nominated for International Dublin Literary Award and a finalist for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, The Better Mother, a finalist for the City of Vancouver Book Award, The End of East, The Shadow List, and Finding Home. Jen acquires and edits for ECW Press and co-hosts the literary podcast, Can’t Lit.
I did read a lot of poetry, and one poem doesn’t stand out in particular, but I was very drawn to the poems of Gwendolyn MacEwen, whom I still love. There is myth and love and the supernatural, what’s not to love?
I was 16 years old, in a creative writing class, when I first thought of myself as poet. I remember writing a poem about my father’s illness and death and something clicked for me. I knew then that poetry would always be a part of my life.
Truly, I think poets are tasked with playing with language to get the heart of whatever it is they are exploring. That could be a topic or a social issue or playing with voice or setting. But our job is to manipulate the language to help get the readers there.
Community Garden was a poem that I had written after I had been trolled online—something that is a sad reality for women of colour who discuss social issues. I don’t like feeling a victim and yet it seemed that there was little I could do to feel better about being a target, so I began walking my dog to my local community garden to help relieve the stress. And while I was staring at a huge sunflower, I thought, “There must be a poem in this.”