of all the
madness and rage and fighting
from the one day when i chose to
wear my sister’s skirt to a New Year’s party
and my mother said i was
no child of hers.
of the looks i get
when i walk into the
public bathroom of the people i belong to
aching because no matter where i
choose to go i will
never fit there.
of sleeping on park benches
kneeling in streets and knowing that
my father is the reason my mother started to hate
with my sister
seeing me at the mall when she goes shopping
pretending she doesn’t notice me
and walking away because
she is scared of what
my mother will think
my mother will say
my mother will do.
the unforgiving looks from strangers
refusing to care about anything “unnatural”
and my friends turning their backs
if i even dare to
wear my favourite dress out in public.
no matter what
my friends think
my mother hates
my sister ignores and
my father was too.
i am a girl.
From the jury: With a simple vocabulary, the author effectively conveys the alienation of a young transgenderperson who reclaims the right to be different despite prejudices and her family’s rejection. With impressive simplicity, the ending suggests that her father experienced a similar kind of alienation. The center alignment of the poem adds anemotionally–charged and fluid image, whose meaning depends on each of the readers.
Sophie Choong is a Grade 7 student who enjoys playing piano, violin, and trombone in her spare time. Her hobbies are making up writing prompts without following through on them, feeling miserable because it gets her in the writing mood, singing, dancing, and acting.
LEAGUE OF CANADIAN POETS: What inspired you to write “I Am”?
Sophie Choong: It began as an idea I got from an English project at school. We were doing literature circle discussions on books that inspire us to make a difference, and one of those books on the list was Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky. For the week, our job within the project was to make notes, questions, anything that created a connection or discussion point about the book. My English teacher knows that I love writing, so he suggested that I write a short story or poem as a continuation of Grayson’s story, or the struggle of someone who suffered from the same issues as Grayson in the book, with a different personal background. So Grayson was who I wanted my poem to be about, though eventually the poem created a character all of its own.
LCP: How long have you been writing poetry?
SC: I’ve been writing poetry for as long as I can remember. I wrote a poem in Kindergarten about a pet fish – but most of the time I spelled fish wrong. So I guess it was about a pet “fsih” instead. Poems, speeches, and stories are a huge part of my life. Most days, when I get home from school I want nothing more than to start a new poem or a flash fiction story.
LCP: Who are some of your favourite writers? What are some of your favourite books?
SC: My favorite writer of all time is Jane Austen, but Agatha Christie and Marie Lu both run close seconds. I love how all of their books introduce recurring questions, problems, and ideas into a unique setting that changes everything. My favorite books [besides those by them] are usually my comfort books, the ones I read over and over again – Ender’s Game, Eleanor & Park, and the His Dark Materials trilogy.
LCP: How do you see writing and poetry being a part of your life over the next several years?
SC: I am going to try my best to find time for writing no matter what.
I’m excited to discover new styles and genres of poetry, and these will allow me to continue to develop my own personal style. I also have commitment issues with longer writing projects, so I hope I can push past that barrier and stick to my goals.
LCP: If you could give other students one piece of advice about writing, what would it be?
SC: I don’t feel that I’m qualified to give advice, but something that I’ve always tried to stay true to is, don’t copy other people. Appreciate their style of writing, maybe take a few pointers or tips, but when you duplicate another person’s style, you essentially disguise your own. I also constantly remind myself that when you read something in your head and it sounds strange, it probably doesn’t sound as bad to other people as it does to you. Ask other people for their feedback too – don’t be scared of criticism, it builds you as a poet and a writer.
LCP: What is your favourite thing about poetry?
SC: My favorite thing about poetry is its potential to fan a spark into a flame at any given moment. I could be watching TV and suddenly be inspired to write a poem. No matter what the inspiration is, an ability to turn it into a poem is beautiful within itself.
Find 2019’s other winning Jessamy Stursberg poems here.