Phoebe Wang on the power of poetry to take us on an emotional journey

On Oct. 17, York’s Canadian Writers in Person course presented York U grad Phoebe Wang reading from her debut book of poetry. York U teaching assistant Dana Patrascu-Kingsley sent the following report to YFile.

Canadian poet and York alumnae Phoebe Wang visited York University on Oct. 17 to talk about her debut collection of poetry and read from it.

Phoebe Wang

Phoebe Wang

A first generation Canadian, Wang was born in Ottawa and graduated with a bachelor degree in English from York University and a master’s degree in English and Creative Writing from the University of Toronto. Her work has appeared in various literary magazines and anthologies. In 2015, Wang won the Prism International Poetry contest. Admission Requirements, her debut collection of poetry, was published with McClelland and Stewart in 2017.

On her visit to York, Wang talked about writing poetry as a way of engaging with the things around her. Her collection of poetry is about both inner and outer spaces. As a reviewer notes in The Wilds Week #18: “From carefully curated gardens to sites of historical reenactments, her work takes you to a new place with the turn of a page. But this isn’t travel writing—the focus is not on the place itself, but the details there, tied to emotions, memories, problems one may face with family, friends, themselves, society as a whole.”

The cover of Phoebe Wang’s debut collection of poetry

The poet shared with the audience some pictures and stories of the places that have inspired her poetry along the years. Taking the train across Canada led to her desire to write about Canadian landscapes and about her position in them as a settler subject. She sees gardens, which are a recurrent image in her poetry, as a fraught place: they seem so orderly and peaceful, but are also a sign of us imposing our will on a landscape that is already here.

Wang also writes about her family’s journey of migration and examines the notions of home and belonging. “I want to take the reader on an emotional journey,” she said to the audience at York U.

On Oct. 31, Trevor Cole will visit York to talk about his fourth novel, Hope Makes Love.

Readings are free and open to any member of the public. All readings are held Tuesdays from 7 to 9pm in 206 Accolade West Building, Keele campus.

For more information, contact Professor Leslie Sanders at leslie@yorku.ca or Professor Gail Vanstone at gailv@yorku.ca.

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