Fiona Tinwei Lam regularly visits Nanaimo to attend writing retreats, but this week the Vancouver-based poet and Simon Fraser University creative writing instructor will be reading her work before a Nanaimo audience for the first time.
Fresh off an appearance at the Vancouver Writers Fest, Lam is holding a reading at the Buzz Coffee House on Friday and a workshop at St. Paul’s Anglican Church on Saturday.
At the reading Lam will recite previous works as well as new poems from an unpublished manuscript based on Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s Elemental Odes.
“I’ve written odes to various ordinary things, like Ode to the Stop Sign, Ode to Chopsticks, Ode to the Plate, Ode to the Pencil, those kinds of things,” she said. “Ordinary odes that are kind of fun but explore with imagery and metaphor sort of the life of those ordinary objects. Things that we don’t see, we take for granted.”
Lam’s workshop is called Beyond the First Draft, and centres on editing, structure and revision.
“Oftentimes people who write poetry and aren’t used to publishing or the workshop process, they think, ‘OK, I’ve written a poem, that’s it. I’m just going to fix the spelling and it’s done with,’” Lam said. “But actually, that’s just the beginning of the journey.”
While the workshop will cover straightforward concepts like removing filler and developing ideas further, Lam said there’s the bigger question of a poem’s potential.
“It’s a seed,” she explained. “And we don’t know what that seed contains until we really take a very close look at it and work on it.”
Lam said a poem can change as it’s being written, and a poet should be attuned to that shifting trajectory.
“It’s about trying to listen to the poem’s intention,” she said. “Looking at the clues of the words and the emotions that are embedded in those words.”
WHAT’S ON … Fiona Tinwei Lam reads at the Buzz Coffee House, 1861 Dufferin Cres., on Friday, Oct. 26 at 7 p.m. Tickets $10 at the door. Workshop on Saturday at St. Paul’s Anglican Church (Chapel Street entrance) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Registration $50 here.