by Janice Zhang
for National Poetry Month, April 2020
At the age of 22, I came to Canada to do my post-graduate study. After graduation, I landed a job in Toronto and then became an immigrant. Having an explorer’s mindset, I love trying out new food, visiting different places, and learning about other cultures.
The birth of my twin daughters later thrilled me to pieces, and also slowed down my pace of life. An interesting idea came to my mind: I want to see the world through my children’s eyes, and I would like to grow up together with them!
Following numerous missions-impossible such as breast-feeding both babies simultaneously, synchronizing their eating and sleeping schedules, controlling two toddler leashes going different directions, etc., I could finally send them to school, into separate classes of course!
When my twins were in grade one, I was shocked one day to find out they had poetry writing homework. In China, students are taught to recite many Chinese classical poems when they start kindergarten, but most of them never write a single poem in their whole lives. This also applied to me. Out of curiosity, I had a talk with their teachers. One teacher told me that kids could learn how to write simple poems when they started reading them. The other said, “Every child is born a poet. We can all be poets if we love poetry and write from our hearts.”
What the teachers said truly inspired me to start reading and writing poems together with my 6-year-olds. We started with Haiku, a traditional form of Japanese poetry that is now very popular around the world. A typical haiku is a three-line observation about a fleeting moment often involving nature through a seasonal reference. I would like to share a Haiku that my elder daughter Joanna Li wrote when she turned 7 and was later translated into Chinese by me:
By: Joanna Li
The snow falls fiercely,
Swirling as the cool breeze blows.
A whirlpool of cold.
Stephanie Li, my younger daughter (Well, by 15 minutes only) is a bookworm. She loves reading all kinds of books, especially literature. She’s a happy child with abundant imagination. Below is a poem she wrote after reading a story of a lonely girl when she was 10. Stephanie used some complicated words that’s more advanced than her age, which I am glad to learn from her poems too.
The Lonely Wee Rose
By: Stephanie Li
I’m a grotesque wee rose
Sown in an exquisite garden
Languished, repelling red gown of mine
My beauty is deep inside — hidden
I am a forgotten wee rose
Forsaken by everyone
My teardrops glimmer
Like diamonds in the sun
I am an abhorred wee rose
Prejudice has made me so
A dull ache approaches me
An ache of pain and sorrow
I am a lonely wee rose
But I have not given up with despair —
I am unique
And should not be compared
我的美丽在内心深处 — 隐藏
Reading and writing poetry became one of our most favorite family activities. Slowly but steadily, I started writing longer poems in both English and Chinese. I then joined writers’ groups and attended poetry events. Starting poetry writing quite late in my life, I took every opportunity to learn. I attended the University of Toronto Summer School Program in Poetry Writing, and also completed a one-month full-time literature program in the Lu Xun Academy of Literature in China.
Being busy both at work and at home, spending time on poetry may be a luxury but it is truly my most peaceful and enjoyable moment. I am so grateful that poetry has brightened our lives and brought us so much fun. In the world of poetry, I feel like I grow up again together with my children and can see the world with a different yet more colorful prospective. Now, please allow me to end this article with a poem I wrote for my daughters. It has both an English version and a Chinese version.
Wished I Could Kiss You
By: Janice Zhang
I wished I could kiss you
On your pink cheeks,
Despite the sweat from all that skating.
The helmets kept us apart,
Whilst our hearts melted into one same part.
I wished I could kiss you
On your round foreheads,
After I walked you to the class door.
The school bell reminded me,
You didn’t want to be called mommy’s dolls.
I wished I could kiss you
On your trembling hands,
While you woke up from a nightmare.
The secret was only for your twin sister to share,
I felt left-out yet was glad you two were friends.
Day after day,
Month after month,
As fast as a spinning wheel,
My sweetheart babies will soon be pretty ladies.
Spinning wheel got to go round,
May your correct direction be found.
Spinning wheel is spinning true,
Your good old mother just want to make sure.
Almost died for having you,
Had I told you how dangerous it was,
For growing double angels in a little lady’s uterus?
In this soft yet magical house,
You slept till you cried like you had a nightmare.
And in that most beautiful moment,
Swiping the sweat off my forehead,
I gave you two a kiss
On your most innocent pink cheeks.
Janice Zhang is a Chinese Canadian poet from Toronto, Canada. As a member of the League of Canadian Poets and the Chinese Pen Society of Canada, she has written a lot of poems in both English and Chinese. Janice was the key organizer of a few literature events in Toronto. She received various awards for her poetry and for her contribution in promoting literature respectively. She works in the Real Estate business, and also has IT background.