Poetry in Motion: Gillian Sze + Quiet Night Think

In Gillian Sze’sQuiet Night Think (ECW Press), Gillian invites readers to meditate with her on questions of emergence and transformation. In this week’s Poetry in Motion feature, Gillian shares how the birth of her son pushed her to think about her own beginnings and start writing her new collection about origins. 


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Quiet Night Think is a collection of poems and essays that explores the early shaping of a writer, cultural and linguistic gaps, the creative process, and motherhood. The work draws on my upbringing as a first-generation Chinese-Canadian, struggles with identity and familial expectations, personal poetic craft, engagement with selected poems, and becoming a mother.An overarching question is: how does the readerly experience intersect with and affect lived experience? What are the f(r)ictions between what we read and what we remember? The first piece in this book, “Quiet Night Think,” is an essay that was written nearly eight years ago. I didn’t know then that it would become the start of a larger project. In the essay, I reflect on an early and important encounter with Li Bai’s poem, an experience that would begin a lifelong exploration with language, translation, and inheritance. It was after giving birth to my son a year later that I would see the shape of a possible book – one that was really about origins. Becoming the starting point for another human being pushed me to think about my own beginnings: cultural, biological, and artistic.

Gillian Sze reads from Quiet Night Think

My interest in writing this collection also stems from a reflection on my own poetic process and relationship with literature. After years of teaching, publishing, adjudicating, and participating in the literary scene, I found myself trying to understand the value of my voice and experiences in the larger context of CanLit. What can I contribute? As Wallace Stevens writes: “One function of the poet at any time is to discover by his own thought and feeling what seems to him to be poetry at that time.” Quiet Night Think is my own contribution to “poetry’s many existing definitions.”

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Gillian Sze is the author of multiple poetry collections and picture books. Her poetry has been nominated for the QWF’s A. M. Klein Prize for Poetry, as well as received awards such as the University of Winnipeg Writers’ Circle Prize and the 3Macs carte blanche Prize. Gillian studied creative writing and received a PhD in études anglaises from Université de Montréal. Her latest book is Quiet Night Think (ECW Press, Apr. 2022).