Poetry Muse: Gillian Sze + Quiet Night Think

In today’s Poetry Muse, Gillian Sze discusses how motherhood, or, “becoming a point of origin for someone else”, was the start of an interrogation of her own beginnings, and in turn, the start of her collection Quiet Night Think (ECW Press). Learn more about Gillian’s muse(s) for the book and hear “Instructions,” a poem from the collection.


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An interview with Gillian Sze

1. Who or what is your muse?So many things. The afternoon light. A broken teacup. My children. The words of others, read and overheard.2. What inspired you when you started writing your poetry collection? And what is your creative process when you begin writing?Becoming a mother — becoming a point of origin for someone else — made me reflect on my own origins, both creative and familial. To be at the beginning of something forced me to interrogate my own beginnings. I wrote, or at least thought about the writing, when I could: at random hours, while I was nursing a babe in the dark, when scraps of paper or my phone were around.3. When did you start writing poetry and why did you choose to write poetry over other forms of literature?I began with short fiction — at least what I thought was very short fiction. I see now that they were more like prose poems. As I continued to write, I discovered the line break, the stanza, and the spaces between words. Poetry is the genre I gravitate to, but there are still days when I like to play with sentences. 4. How would you describe your poetry collection? Meditative, searching, and quiet. 5. What advice would you give to aspiring poets?Read. Find the writers that move you most and keep their books nearby.

A poem from Quiet Night Think: “Instructions”

When I say yellow,
fold yourself.
Lose count of geese.
Measure seeds
by placing them between your lips
and humming.
A walnut lets out an opera.
Observe the cypress in full sunlight.
Do so again in old age.
If it grows bright,
pay homage.
If it grows dark,
bargain at will.
The fern is another word
for memory.
Watch the clouds
as they knit their way
across the night.
What I want to tell you
is imperative—
that we are flawed
and exalted,
that there are those
who still look to the raven for rain.
When the wind
pines through your window,
let it.
The wind misses you.
It misses

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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). www.gilliansze.com

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During the month of April, you can buy Quiet Night Think and our other featured Poetry Muse books for 15% off + free shipping in Canada with the promo code ALUPOETRYMUSE. Or find them at your local independent bookstore!Keep up with us all month on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook with the hashtag #ALUPoetryMuse. And catch up on the rest of the Poetry Muse series here.