Languages have colours.* – Anna Yin
“The Year of the Monkey” has officially arrived and Chinese-Canadian poet Anna Yin continues to celebrate with her public readings and writing of poetry. Her work is simple yet complex: colourful like haiku lines extended with silk ribbon metaphors, often lyrical with wind-sock blown, water-painted words flowing from each page. Her writing is exotic like an Asiatic lily but ‘down-to-Earth’ grounded with the strength and vulnerabilities of bamboo. Her mastery of English, her second language, amazes me.
As a writer, she has travelled far.
Born in China, she immigrated to Canada in 1999. Since that time, her literary career has soared. Today, she is the inaugural Poet Laureate for the City of Mississauga (2015-2017) and has authored five poetry collections. Yin attributes much of her success to “luck” but many of her admirers feel she’s a natural literary ambassador with a unique poetic voice. In person, she is kind and warm: ambitious with her dreams but keen in helping others excel.
Follow her literary career on social media and you will see her positive and enthusiastic nature captured in promotional and celebratory photographs. Note the huge smile on her face and on the people around her.
Over the years, her poetry and translations have helped to bridge the language barriers between Eastern and Western cultures. She is a strong supporter and promoter of literary events.
On Sunday, February 21, she will participate in the 2016-RBC-Toronto Quinhuai Lantern Festival Lights Up where Chinese and Canadian poets from the League of Canadian Poets and more will read and perform poetry. The event is organized by Ontario-Jiangsu Friendship Association and Jiangsu Overseas Exchanges Association. More information can be found here.
In addition to her functions as poet laureate, she continues to tour with her most current book Seven Nights With the Chinese Zodiac (Black Moss Press, 2015). According to George Elliott Clarke, the Poet Laureate of Toronto ( 2012-2015) and Canada’s newest Poet Laureate, “Yin’s bravura poems—so exquisite and extraordinary—merit bravo over bravo.”
Below is my book review scheduled to appear in the next issue of Verse Afire, the membership newsletter of The Ontario Poetry Society:
Hypnotic and surreal! Reading Anna Yin’s latest book, Seven Nights With The Chinese Zodiac, is like drifting into a series of dreams and “moon-watered” poems.
A breath-taking collection! Hold onto your night caps! Her culturally-rich imagination surprises the reader with appearances of floating cities, a dragon that “thunders behind hefty clouds”, “winged horses pulling/a chariot”, a snake that “swallows the sky” and so much more.
In the poem, “Night Waves”, the reader encounters “Wave upon wave…/inhaling”. Sometimes the images depict sadness, like a fish “desperate for air” or adversity when “shivering in storms/our bed is a fragile boat”. Other times, hope prevails when: “light is the anchor”… “You open your eyes/moonlight pours in”. This Asian moon symbol with its cyclical phases, its ebb and flow, its association with Yin’s versus Yang’s attributes is like an astrological thread or tributary that skillfully connects the poems together.
Her poetic words are often water brushed with rain and snow petals, love lost and faith found, the change in seasons, mirrors and reflections, the scent of dried roses and the inhaling of silence.
In one poem, she pens: “My path is illuminated by the moon–/the same moon walked with Basho”. This reference to the Japanese haiku master as well as prominent Canadian poets Dorothy Livesay, John B. Lee, Margaret Atwood and others shows a deep respect and appreciation for her mentors. By mixing the more traditional haiku with her more layered and longer free verse poems, Yin blurs the lines between Eastern and Western cultures.
Anna Yin is a writer who works diligently to make poetry more accessible and appreciated at home and abroad. As she states: “I long to tie a golden thread/in this labyrinth of dreams”. Anna Yin’s book awakens the poetic night: splits open the reader’s mind with each gentle or evocative line.
Additional information about Anna Yin and her books can be found on her author website, on the Black Moss Press website and in an on-line interview published by The Medium, The Voice of the University of Toronto Mississauga.
A YouTube video about Yin’s poetic journey leading up to her appointment as the first Poet Laureate of Mississauga can be found here.
*Quote is from the poem “My Accent” Anna Yin, first published in ARC Poetry Magazine and reprinted in Seven Nights With the Chinese Zodiac (Black Moss Press, 2015).