Poetry Muse: Caroline Wong + Primal Sketches
Today on Poetry Muse we are joined by Caroline Wong, author of Primal Sketches (Signature Editions). Caroline's poetry collection is a book that considers how our actions profoundly effect the lives of fellow humans as well as the natural world around us. In our Q&A with Caroline, she shares how nature is her muse and how she was inspired to start writing this collection to express her needs, especially events that brought great suffering and pain to those unable to defend themselves.See more details below
Who is your muse?
My muse is Nature with its changing seasons, its shifting patterns of light and darkness. Nature is motion and stillness, order and chaos, beauty and violence, rebirth and death. Out there I’m at home, and I can also lose myself completely.
What inspired you when you started writing your poetry collection? And what is your creative process when you begin writing?
What inspired me when I began writing on my poetry collection was my need to express my own ignorance, my tendency to turning-a-blind-eye to tragic events happening everywhere, outside my own small, safe world, especially events that brought great suffering and pain to those unable to defend themselves.
I write in my small studio that looks out to the garden. My habit is to sit down in front of my computer after breakfast and just write, whether it’s to carry on with what I have been working on or to revise a previous piece.
When did you start writing poetry and why did you choose to write poetry over other forms of literature?
I started writing “poetry” in my teens, but I did not pick it up again until later in life. What I like most about the poetry form is its economy and compression of language and feelings. You can express so much in a few lines, even what you say is not apparent to the reader at first.
How would you describe your poetry collection?
Three words: Animals, Women, Home.
The impetus for writing this collection came from books and articles I’d read, about the harm done to animals in the wild and in medical research laboratories and the violence and pain suffered by women and children in time of war and its aftermath. I felt I had to write about these tragic happenings in order to call attention to and to honour their sacrifice and suffering. From there, others poems of a more personal nature emerged, on themes of uprootedness, migration, the redemptive power of memory, the resilience of the human spirit.
What advice would you give to aspiring poets?
Follow your inspiration. Believe in your creativity. Be prepared to work hard. Polish your work until it gleams before sending it out to publishers, and don’t be discouraged by rejections. I see them as a learning curve in a writer’s journey.
Are there any poets or poetry collections that you admire?
Catherine Hunter’s St. Boniface Elegies
A poem from Primal Sketches
from the door of her old home she watched
the river daily rise. Most of the people
forced out of their village
the century-old town.
Bai Di among the clouds
They fled carrying tools, beds, tables, chairs
to the hastily built new town
with no place for raising ducks and chickens.
Jiang Ling a thousand li east
At night she dreamed of water
rising over the threshold
carrying out her bloated corpse,
gibbons from red cliffs
their ceaseless howling
floating along with carcasses
of pig, cow, deer, and other debris
while sampan lightly sailed
down the river through the vanishing gorges
ten thousand peaks. 
 Lines in italics indicate a poem by Li Po (701–762 CE), “Morning Leaving Bai Di Cheng,” the author’s translation.
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CAROLINE WONG came to Canada from China in her early teens. She went back to university after her children had grown up and graduated with a BA in English Literature from Simon Fraser University. She is also a graduate of The Writer’s Studio at SFU. She writes primarily poetry. Many of her poems have to do with the theme of home — which is both a place inside and an elusive, irretrievable place out there. Her writing has appeared in Grain, Prism International, Rice Paper, The Prose Poem Project, West Coast Line, and Westword. Primal Sketches (Signature Editions) is her debut poetry collection. She lives with her family in Burnaby, BC.
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During the month of April, you can buy Primal Sketches and any one of our other featured Poetry Muse books for 15% off + free shipping in Canada with promo code ALUPOETRYMUSE. Or find them at your local independent bookstore!
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