November 21, 2014

Gillian Sze in Conversation

Photo of Gillian Sze by Sofia Bohdanowicz
Sound, scent and the physical act of writing. That sensibility moving through the world, both exploratory and determined. Meet Gillian Sze.

SUSAN GILLIS: How did you first come to poetry?
GILLIAN SZE: Probably by accident, chance, and good timing. I think much of what I do now originates from a number of things: nursery rhymes, wisdom spouted by my parents in Chinese idioms, the sound of flipping pages, the smell of winter in my backyard, good penmanship, letter-writing, journaling, and reading.

SG: Is it fair to think of your work in terms of appetite and persistence? What role do these play in your work?
GS: Appetite, for sure – and quite literally in my last book where there’s an intense focus on food and eating. More broadly, I think appetite and persistence is a productive way of thinking about art, poetry, and creation. The appetite to understand, to express, to communicate and the dogged persistence to get it right, and to get it out there in the world. I hope always to be hungry. Anne Carson said it best when she wrote: “I will do anything to avoid boredom. It is the task of a lifetime.”

SG: What’s inspiring you these days?
GS: The changing season, particularly the light this time of year. Planting tulips. Exploring my new neighbourhood. Teaching my students the villanelle.
Gillian Sze is the author of three poetry collections, including Peeling Rambutan (Gaspereau Press, 2014), shortlisted for the A. M. Klein Prize for Poetry. Originally from Winnipeg, Gillian now lives in Montreal where she writes and teaches. Read her poem "Eating Fruit" here.

November 14, 2014

Gillian Sze: A Poem


"Oriental Market" by sjtoh

Gillian Sze
EATING FRUIT


While you are writing to me about the first snow, I am in a van bumping along the backbone of Malaysia, stopping only at roadside stands to buy durian, soursop, dragon fruit. In my mother’s language, if one does not have a taste for a food, one does not know it, as in to comprehend, or have the knowledge of how to eat. Eating has become a test of intimacy, to gauge the extent a mouth can work around a seed. In the evenings, after dinner, we eat fruits, and with each newly encountered fruit, my family watches, waits for my reaction. At first, the spikes of the rambutans warned me not to touch, but I did, and they slackened beneath my fingers, turned lissom like new grass. And dragon fruit, chemical-pink, shone with tiny black seeds. But a brailled slice tasted subtle as melon, as if its flavour dimmed at the close of my lips. So while you are writing to me about snow, I am driving to Bahau, past streaming fields of pitaya cacti. Through the window, I imagine the palette of your November washing the landscape monochrome. You ask when I will return, if I am ever coming back. When I do, I will bring with me and show you the persuasion of pulasans. The maybeness of roseapples.


Gillian Sze is the author of three poetry collections, including Peeling Rambutan (Gaspereau Press, 2014), shortlisted for the A. M. Klein Prize for Poetry. Originally from Winnipeg, Gillian now lives in Montreal where she writes and teaches.