by Stephanie Chang, grade 10
The morning sickness loved me in this way:diaphanous heart shuddering in the grocery store,in the reservoir at 6AM. I leave you in the rain
where you told me to. I leave a pistol pressedto the corner of a New England sky or any place
you will find and decay in for centuries:
luminous until nothing is. I am staring at the
last streetlamp in the city from the window
of a moving train, peeling off skin like sacrifice
as if that makes for higher meaning. I want
to open this ribcage for revolution. I watch
the gilded finch sing inside the smoke. Migration
is happening at the bottom of my chamomile
tea. The days were kinder then, when my mother
taught me how to read the leaves. The days
were all but accidental, when wildflowers spun
‘round in the laundromat wash. Perpetual motion as
act of springtime. The daughter tongue turns yellow,
reminder of an existence without war. But springtime
is just that. Springtime is the starving season
and there is no way around it; spring is my mother
forgetting her maiden name. I am still praying
for your song to end in earshot. So softly
did it pluck the youth from my hands; I
cannot remember ever firing the bullet
straight into your wet mouth.
“The poetic risk-taking in Burial set it apart. The mystery at the poem’s heart suggested but never quite revealed. But the loss that generates the passion and power inside the poem bleeds there larger than life. Not the death nor the burial but the impact of the death, slams the reader in this poem. And it is its images – raw, jarring and unexpected – that create its overwhelming sense of loss and dislocation. I leave a pistol pressed/ to the corner of a New England Sky; I am staring at the/ last streetlamp in the city from a moving train, peeling off skin like sacrifice…. And as readers our skin, too, tears off and we feel the isness of the narrator’s loss and grief.” juror Richard Osler
LEAGUE OF CANADIAN POETS: What inspired you to write “Burial?”
STEPHANIE CHANG: “Burial” demands of the reader an image: tilted head against the window of a moving car, the car becoming a train, rainwater splashed across a picturesque town, the silent severances of family. Springtime. This poem was a tribute to my time in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I attended a debate tournament at Harvard University. Rather than touch on matters related to that experience, I poured all of my memories from the place and snippets of reflections into this work. It is an ode to life back home, where my mother will always be the greatest person I know and where I know my city will always be singing. “Burial” is written through the lens of a dissatisfied young girl who asks for too much, but also the recollections of the same sky stretched across this continent. It’s where the ends of my world collapse and begin.
LCP: How long have you been writing poetry?
SC: Ever since first grade, stories and the power of language have influenced my view of the world immensely. Specifically, poetry serves as a way for me to examine the intangible and make sense of it all. I, like many young writers, cannot ever remember being without pen and paper. However, I consider my most significant accomplishments in writing to stem from last summer’s efforts in reinvigorating my understanding of being a poet. In a sense, I’ve never not written poetry. In another, I am only beginning to unravel all my thoughts into writing that I can share.
LCP: Who are some of your favourite writers? What are some of your favourite books?
SC: Sarah Kay, Chen Chen, Leila Chatti, and Kaveh Akbar are all poets I admire for a multitude of reasons, the first being how their work can depict a single experience with such vivid imagery and honesty. Recently, I’ve been exploring writers outside of the mainstream; those that weave the unconventional and political into stories. A general selection of books that have caught my interest lately include Crush by Richard Siken and Heaven or This by Topaz Winters. In addition, I’ve come to find myself regularly revisiting the January issue of The Adroit Journal, one of my absolute favourite literary publications that has guided me throughout my ventures into poetry.
LCP: How do you see writing and poetry being a part of your life over the next several years?
SC: I plan to pursue business, political science, or international relations in post-secondary, ideally with a minor or double-major in creative writing. Writing has consistently remained an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember, and presently, I can only foresee myself continuing my self-directed studies in poetry. I hope to contribute to numerous more literary magazines than I currently do and seek publishing chapbooks in print. Poetry is something I acknowledge will grow alongside me, a craft that never exists to astonish my sense of creativity. A project I’m working on at the moment is my own literary journal called “Yellow Parfait,” which you can find out more about as I release updates on my Twitter page at @_stephchang.
LCP: If you could give other students one piece of advice about writing, what would it be?
SC: If you write, consider yourself a writer, and not an “aspiring” one. There are so many opportunities in creative writing for youth that you gain access to by resisting the urge to underestimate the value of your work and identity as an artist. Seek out literary magazines and publications that are willing to amplify the voices of high school students and listen to their voices; perspectives that are unique to our generation.
LCP: What is your favourite thing about poetry?
SC: The malleability in meaning and imagery. Poetry is an act of experimentation, figuring out where to place certain phrases and when to turn song into silence. My take on poetry considers that it can be anything: political, indignant, soft, or demanding. A poem has as much to say as its writer does; this is something I am learning again and again with each new piece I create.