Table of Contents Introduction -Ms. Sjerven . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 The Mold -Fiona Kern . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 The Brimming - Lucy Gordon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6 I Feel Less - Samantha Hudson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Denial - Jadyn Kuah . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10 opportunity missed -Emily MacGowan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12 Upgrade -Hannah Samuel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 The Good Life -Stephanie Monagon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 See me -Kate Newell . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 #MeToo -Paris Shan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 It Takes Two to Tango -Kathryn Stewart . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 Irreversible -Selina Yu . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .26 Stretched -Heley Yang . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .28 Breathing Underwater -Sarah Battiston . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .30 Roots of Misogny -Anika Daclan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 We Are -Maya Fong . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34 Mask of Resilience -Megan Chen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 Spiral -Maren Gilbert-Stewart . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .38 Definite Divide -Mira Gill . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 eyes, ears, Real World -Saphren Gill . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .42 When I Was Young -Cici Guan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44 Listen Up Dreamers -Mia Hope . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46 My House -Hanna Kolof . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48 Emergency -Justyna Lam . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 Two Faced -Ming Lim . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .52 Drink It In -Chloe Pulver . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .54 The Hate you Give -Allison Shan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .56 Stuck -Taylor Shen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58 She is Go(o)d -Rosie Smith . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .60 Live Everyday like itâ€™s Your Last -Hannah Wells . . . . . . . . . . .62
Introduction This project came about from a desire to answer the question, “What’s Poetry Good For?” which I think many teenagers might ask themselves over the course of 13 years of school. So I wanted to suggest that poetry might (if it must) be “useful” in terms of giving them a voice - hence the title: “What’s Your Issue?” As well, I hoped students would learn about the impact of diction, metaphor, and form in an experiential way by writing poems themselves. In order to provide food for thought and to consider issues that interest us, we listened to a podcast - “Three Miles,” by This American Life, which details the massive racial and economic disparity in the United States. We read two Canadian Aboriginal poets - Lee Maracle and Leanne Simpson, who write about teachings handed down to them and about our connections to the places we inhabit. And lastly, we watched the incredible Palestinian, spoken word poet, Suheir Hammad, who astonishes with her creativity, power, and passion in her poems about the refugee experience and war. We modeled ourselves after these experts. Here are young women addressing problems they take issue with and using poetry as a means of speaking out and dealing with the complexities of modern life. We hope you enjoy. - Ms. Sjerven
This poem makes me uncomfortable. Like really uncomfortable. Body image is something I’ve struggled with my whole life, but I’ve never really talked about it. When I decided I was going to write a poem on body image I definity did not think this would be the outcome. I didn’t think I would be open and vulnerable, but this project has allowed me to speak up about this insecurity. Of course we all have insecurities, but it is so easy to get wrapped up in the idea that you are full of flaws while thinking that everyone else is perfect. I wrote this poem to connect with other people and show them everyone has their “flaws,” but they do not define us and there is so much more to us then what we physically look like. The other inspiration for this poem was to spread body positivity and to spread the message that just because you don’t like what you look like now, doesn’t mean you are not powerful and beautiful. It just means you need to work towards loving yourself and the skin you’re in. I hope you enjoy.
The Mold – Fiona Kern One girl looks through a mirror her mind populated by whether or not she is considered beautiful. Although there are no cracks, chips, shards, the mirror is broken. When she glimpses others, she sees their charm, their good looks, their intelligence. She looks back at herself and sees a stomach she doesn’t like, stretch marks crawling up her thighs darker than what should be on her mind. What’s worse are her eyes, full of disappointment, distress, disgust. She wants to free her, but the frame the mold keeps her trapped. Frustrated, flustered, fuming. The shards once showing everything scatter on the floor, but the relief she expected isn’t there. Instead, hundreds of sad eyes gaze at her. Multiplied and magnified instead of gone.
Upon listening to Suheir Hammad’s two spoken word poems, “What I Will” and “break (clustered),” I was hooked by her passion. Hammad was able to easily present a poem about refugees because she was incredibly passionate and knowledgeable on the topic. It took me some time to come up with an issue I feel passionate about. As it turns out, I didn’t decide to write my poem on one specific thing I am passionate about, but I decided to write about my lack of voice on topics I am passionate about. In my poem, “Brimming,” I address condescension, and how people look down on me for my age, my gender, and my attitude. It all comes down to the age-old teaching: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” You never know what is within the pages of someone’s life, and that is what I wanted my audience to understand. I hope this poem helps you to think about the way you interact with people throughout each day. Thank you and enjoy.
Brimming – Lucy Gordon I am not weak. Weakened by the people who put me down. Down for my 16 years. Down for my long hair and coloured nails. Down for my big smile, my attitude. Down for my hopeless compassion and niceties. Do not call me childish, nor naive. When people see me they feel relief, “It’s only her”. What does it feel like to be appreciated esteemed, respected or thanked? That’s not something I’ve experienced. Then what’s the point? Should I continue living this facade: acting? I’m smart enough to know: not to expect anything from anyone, but also not to change myself for anyone. Then what is the key? I want to hear that click click-ing noise. The noise an old door makes, when the lock turns. Because it definitely isn’t here. I’m obviously not there. I am not here to complain. I am here for answers, for that key. Just know I’m confused No solution is plausible, possible I can’t go on living my life vacant It should be brimming.
I Feel Less – Samantha Hudson After listening to the poem, “What I Will” by Suheir Hammad I was inspired to write “I Feel Less,” which discusses catcalling and the effects it has on women. I chose to write my poem on this problem because it’s not often we find ourselves discussing it; however, it is significant and prevalent. Hammad’s writing style has encouraged me to incorporate similar techniques such as repeititon in my writing. Her use of repetition spreads a clear message and intensifies her feelings. Hammad also uses a simplistic variety of language. And although, many people think using simple language is immature and childish, it helps convey a clear and straightforward message. After reading my poem I encourage you to question society’s standards regarding catcalling and to ask yourself why this problem is so often disregarded.
Don’t go out after dark they tell us not because of the faded sun, nor the dimmed lights within the houses, but because of the footsteps the ones that creep up behind us on the loneliest streets. We didn’t ask for these footsteps, and we don’t want them. Why am I told to be careful? Why are you not told to leave me alone? I do not expect you to understand, in fact I am not asking you to. I am telling you to stop. Stop calling me names when I walk by, stop whispering to your friends about us. I am not here for your enjoyment. You will never understand what it feels like, the feeling of not being able to stand up for myself. How am I supposed to believe I can fight back, when your actions disclose how defenseless I am? I feel helpless. I feel powerless. I feel less. Don’t tell me I’m uneasy because I can’t take your endorsement, because I have trained myself not to heed your whistle, because I have chosen to ignore your “compliments.” Your “compliments” are irreversible and cannot be returned. It is your turn to feel at unease, It is time for you to change.
Walls are sometimes built to leave people outside; they are meant to exclude and complicate people and their dreams. In the podcast, “Three Miles” produced This American Life and recorded by Chana Joffe-Walt, underprivileged kids living in the Bronx are taken to a private school filled with riches and opportunities that they never had and would never get. The stories of three individuals who only dream to “make it out” are profiled; however, one manages to get out and the other two fail. From sharing their experiences, raw emotions, and what made or broke them during and after high school, listeners feel their stories through sympathy, compassion, and pity. In my poem, “Denial,” the speaker is left questioning her dreams after being denied the post-secondary education that she believes can pull her out of her disadvantaged life. A sense of loss is portrayed through imagery and metaphors as if the speaker is dropped in the middle of an unknown island. I wanted to give the her a conflicting voice fueled by her motivations, disdain, and acceptance of the situation. Conscious of the battles to be faced, obstacles, and traps of the future, will you fight or run?
Denial â€“ Jadyn Kuah I stand in a foreign land, a place that I think might free me. No one to talk to butwe regret to inform you thatturned down not even to cross the finish or the start line. Bound. Beat. Alone. Held back. Shackled by the chains of my being. Fight? no. yes. No. I know this isnâ€™t where I fit. Two sides supposed to be connected, just a foggy abyss into nothingness. Accepting of the world. Angry at the world. Unworthy. Worthy. Invisible. Standing out. Undeserving. Deserving. Serving. Served. Nothing changes. Can I be the change?
We are here at York House - reciting our poems. Children in other countries are sleeping on the streets, cold, and in the rain because they can’t afford a roof over their heads. They are stuck in a constant cycle of poverty and aren’t able to escape it; these children have no access to education. My poem, “oportunity missed” is about children who grow up in less fortunate places, where they are forced to work instead of being able to go to school. They do not get the opportunity to learn even simple literacy or math skills because all they “need to know” is how to do their job. I wrote this poem after hearing Suheir Hammad’s spoken word poem “What I Will,” where she discusses war and peace in a country that no one recognizes. The people who are fighting are courageously standing strong and aren’t giving up. I wrote this poem because I feel strongly that every child should be able to go to school. Everyone who can help needs to help. It’s your duty as someone with an education to help the ones who don’t.
opportunity missed – Emily Macgowan
Children don’t have a say in the life they’re born into or their level of poverty . Children don’t get an opportunity to change their status, their lives or their futures. People are wealthy, people are poor people have access to education people don’t. All children have brains and bodies and imaginations, full of potential, full of talent but they don’t get the opportunity to grow. Miserable, despairing, going through the actions without thinking.
They work at their jobs instead of at school which is where theyâ€™re supposed to be learning, growing, shaping the people they will become. They donâ€™t even know no one tells them that there is hope for a brighter future. That they do have the brains, bodies, imaginations for a brighter future. That they could have the power to change. If only, they could step through the doors of a school.
Upgrade – Hannah Samuel
Often at York House, we tend to get so lost in the material things around us that we forget to appreciate what we have. This is an issue I am passionate about and feel the need to address. In my poem, “Upgrade,” I tackle the issue of materialism. I was inspired by Suheir Hammad’s spoken word poem, “What I Will,” where she expresses her opinion on war and violence. She is willing to “craft [her] own drum,” which means she has the ability to be different from the people around her and stray from what others think, no matter the backlash she may receive. My poem begins in a crowded mall looking for things I want, but don’t need. To express this, I use imagery which pulls the reader into the mall with me and attempts to make them reflect on their actions as well. Similar to Hammad, I use repetition to express the struggle I continually face with materialism. It is hard to know what the future will look like, but in the shift of my poem I attempt to predict it. I hope that this poem brings light to an issue and leaves you thinking. 15
The overflowing mall is filled with expectant people searching for their next New Thing. And here I stand among them. I shuffle through the aisles scouring for additions to my already abundant collection of unnecessary essentials. I pace, looking and longing. What will the crowd flock to next? I struggle between being myself and having the newest flavour of the day. I’m not happy I’m not content I’m not even satisfied. I, along with the crowd, fail to understand this satisfaction I long for is not my longing. It has been manufactured by others.
I must stop the uniform movements and break away from the molded path. And when my closet is full of things I will never touch again, lined with every colour, pattern, material. Then what? I will have a life categorized as rich and abundant. An abundance of: stuff things possessions. Everything I could want but, thatâ€™s all I will have, because if I am always searching for yet another addition to my untouched pile of trends, my closet will be full, but will I?
The Good Life – Stephanie Monagan
We are all here on this earth; many of us do not know why, or what to do while we are here. In my poem, “The Good Life,” I dig into this question. My inspiration comes from Suheir Hammad’s spoken word poem, “break (clustered).” It dives head on into the topic of war: the consequences, the reasons, the sources, and the inevitability. Similarly, “The Good Life” uses imagery to walk through the topics of pleasures, wealth, time, and death. Although about different topics, both poems come to the same conclusion of smoke. Our hopes and dreams seem real and solid, but when we reach for them they disappear. It is what we do with this knowledge that changes us, our perspectives, and our actions.
From the beginning we have scoured the earth for answers looked to the stars, looked to the sea, looked to the horizon. Some have unearthed happiness; fleeting ecstasy brimmed with glee. They chase and hunt the bright pink bubbles, but once their fingers feel them, savour them Pop! Gone again. Another wave tossed in the ocean. Others have dug up wealth, but in their search for freedom, found chains. They toil and grind for their kingdoms, but who will enjoy their riches? For time is not our friend; everything we build ends. No one will remember yesterday, and no one will care about tomorrow. Our history is that there is no legacy. The sun rises and sets, the river flows to the west, the mountain never leaves its crest, there is nothing new under the sun. There is nobody time cannot erase. For everyone is erased. The smart, the silly, the poor, the wealthy, the weak, the healthy; whether you loved or hated, worked or wasted. No one stays behind, death takes us all; she is the greatest equalizer. We have walked this earth for thousands of years, and these are the thorns it bears for us. Fruits of smoke. But if we shift our eyes, just a little bit, we can see the gift.
Some people have won the lottery; a specific lottery that only a small percent of the world has won; a lottery that nobody can choose to enter, one that provides people with opportunities for the future. I wrote the poem “See Me” as a way to express the struggle faced by millions of people around the world. My poem illustrates the racial divide, the divide between the rich and the poor, and the divide between the lucky and the unlucky. I wrote this poem as a way to showcase the deep, inner sufferings that are faced by more billions of people on the planet, as a way to depict the barrier that is seen by so many, but invisible to the rest. I was inspired to write this poem because in the podcast, “Three Miles” by This American Life, a boy named Jonathan had a hard time coping with the barrier between his life and the life he so desperately wanted. Our society is infinitely divided economically, socially, and racially; all because some of us won the lottery.
See Me – Kate Newell I am from a place, a place that is hard to remember, not hard to remember, just hard to think about. I am from a place of defeat, broken before I tried. Now, you and I. We are too different. Me, from a place not worth remembering. You, from a place of good luck. I walk in; I am lost. You walk in; you belong. I tried to cope - I did. I had no outlet, no place to let go. I saw you there, no struggle for miles, or at least 3 I mean, if you were counting me. I watched the others they were important - they were powerful. I watched as they were told: “you are the future.” I listened as I was told: “you will never make it.” We were opposites; the barrier was there. You did not see it. I was begging for you to see it - see me. For I saw you. I needed to succeed, I needed to make it, break the barrier. But I didn’t, I can’t, I won’t. Because you won the lottery and I lost.
#MeToo – Paris Shan
The #MeToo movement has brought to light the extent that sexual harassment and sexual aggression has infiltrated our society. Women were either silenced when they tried to speak out or were negatively viewed by society after speaking out. My piece uses word play with hidden messages such as “stop talking, shut up, silence” to represent how these women had to keep their feelings inside because they were under threat of ridicule and alienation from speaking out. The turning point in the poem is when women finally get the courage to speak out and be heard. My poem ends with the words “Me too” to pay homage to the movement that has righted the wrongs of the past for many years.
The news hits the press. I am shocked. Mocked. Stop talking, talking in my head. My brain yearns to forget, to right the past. The door is closed. Slammed shutup in my face. Don’t complain. I got what I deserved, isn’t it true? No ability to speak out. I deserve this. Maybe I brought this on myself? The hairy men, the married men, no respect. Sighlends itself to criticism. Everyone knew but said nothing. There was no cushion when I fell in line with my peers. Don’t push it or I will suffer. I will not stop talking. Don’t tell me to shut up or be quiet. Silence is the enemy. The weapons are words. I will not fall in line. To the women who finally spoke up. Public shame to public truth. No more room for this violence. No more fear for me. Too much to say now.
It Takes Two to Tango –Kathryn Stewart
In the poem, “It Takes Two to Tango,” I wrote about how I have changed overtime and accepted my feelings of passion and anger. I wrote this poem based off of this familiar saying, and this is a phrase my family has used as I was growing up. In my poem, I write about what is going through my mind as I hear this. I used repetition to show how my mindset has changed over the years as I’ve gotten older; similearly, in Leanne Simpson’s poem, “to the oldest tree in the world,” also repetition throughout the poem to bring you back to our connectedness to nature. My favourite part of my poem is the ending. I use metaphors to show how my passion and anger over one small subject has hidden itself away and would only show itself again every once in a while. The last line is my favorite; I think it is a hard hitting line that really makes you take a new perspective on blaming others in an argument.
It takes two to tango 5 words that fill me with anger and hurt. I never understood, it was always her and never me. How could it be me? I was just the one caught up in the mess. I was just the one that would end up hurt. I did nothing. It takes two to tango. 5 words that fill me with confusion. They were the problem. They started it all. But - maybe I did something. Maybe I shouldnâ€™t have said that thing. No, why would I think that, it was her fault. It takes two to tango. 5 words that fill me with acceptance. It was also me. I was partly to blame. I hurt her. I am part of the problem. This fire has subdued. It is now a slow burning ember an ember that could ignite how could it only be their fault if we were playing this game together? It takes two to tango. 25
The poem “Irreversible” that I have written follows the format of the Shakespearean sonnet. My poem was inspired by the strong sense of personality found in the poem “What I Will” written by Suheir Hammad. In my poem, the speaker is unsure of her upbringing and what the passing of time would bring her. However, by the end of the poem in the rhyming couplet, I imposed a sense of confidence in the speaker, similar to the one from “What I Will”.
Irreversible â€“ Selina Yu
As soft powdered snow drifts delicately I ponder the passing of seasons. Why must our hairs grey so hastily? White seasons provide such uncertain reasons. Where does it all go when it melts away? I watch the water flow down gracefully and I stand there - untouched by the decay. I am unwavering, unwavering and I ride along the mysterious wind. Where my next destination awaits. Still, I struggle with an impending end-What does the dead of winter create? Yet I plough through the snow with elegance As spring provides us all with relevance.
Seemingly close-knit and strong friendships can be, in reality, easily broken by our ambitions. In my spoken word poem â€œStretched,â€? I capture the increasingly competitive atmosphere of high school and the damaging effect of this environment on our friendships through the employment of internal rhymes, metaphor, and repetition. How competitive is too competitive and how important is winning?
Stretched â€“ Heley Yang We stood, Face to face, toe to toe. We were the combo of two. Nothing pulled us apart, We were a part of each other, Until we parted ways at 17. When connections became disconnection, You had your ambition, The submission of your application, Your need of recognition. All you cared about was competition, Our relation was long forgotten. I was no longer a feature of your future. I thought distance would push us apart, But it was you. I thought our relation was worth more, But to you, it was recognition. I thought our friendship was a rubber band, no matter how distant we became, thereâ€™d be room for a rebound, but I forgot rubber bands snap too. We stand, Back to back, heel to heel, Heading opposite ways.
From a young age, we were told to get our heads out of the clouds, and to keep our feet on the ground long enough to create steady lives. In my poem, “Breathing Underwater,” I challenge the societal norms which discourage people from pursuing their creative tendencies. There is an imbalance in place, with people regarding doctors and lawyers above artists and writers. In my poem, I reflect on personal and observational experiences. I use an extended metaphor of a sinking ship to convey powerful ideas. I drew inspiration from the poem “Breath is Wind” by Lee Miracle, because in her poem, she uses a metaphor of wind and breath to convey growth and the power our voices hold. Her poem really speaks to me, as the use of detailed storytelling makes the reader feel as though they are living the speaker’s life. My poem, “Breathing Underwater,” is a challenge to reflect on the way we view growing up and creativity.
Breathing Underwater – Sarah Battiston Born with enough dreams to sink a ship every second every minute every hour. The boat comes closer to the surface. Taught breath is unattainable underwater. So I struggle to the surface forgetting I spent all that time beneath it. Floating is better than sinking. Wisdom is better than naivety. Voice is better than thought . Knowledge is better than creativity. I’m unwilling to meet the surface. I cling to other sunken ships ridiculed by those floating on top. Maybe it’s better down here.
My spoken word poem is an extension of who I am: a representation of my journey and one of the experiences that inspired my identity as a feminist today. “Root of Misogyny” captures the spirit of women’s rights and feminism by calling out the phenomenon of “catcalling” that young women experience from men. I used techniques such as metaphors, imagery and diction to create the feeling of hostility women when they are catcalled. My poem illustrates the unease that harassment causes, and the desire to protect oneself in these situations. I want to tell a story with my poem, one that captures the complexities of women as well as sparks the conversations that can inspire other women.
Root of Misogyny – Anika Daclan The reunion of my body with spring is my favourite time of year. I coast the streets and sip the clouds from the sky, with full volume on my headphones. I walk around like it’s a celebration. I am in love with the gift of air but maybe . . . I am too in love with this gift. Just as temperamental and abrupt as Vancouver weather is, so is the end of this celebration. 32
Because the man in the corner in a tone like he’s asking for a piece of gum says “Hey beautiful, whats your name? Can I get a piece of you tonight?” Though it is barely morning and barely even spring, this is a reminder of what genesis good weather brings us women. With our ass and hips no longer buried in coats. Once again we become the street corner auction. This is a reminder that our daughters will learn-their identity is synonymous with a bullseye target. Oh what silly girls to think our bodies are private. My body has never been my property. My body is the most comfortable for everyone else to live in but me. They can come and go as they please. I am a glass house lit up at midnight, which is to say the easiest of targets. That man in the corner-with a tone like he’s asking for gum. His voice is an invitation for violence. But I keep my growl tucked in the back of my throat. Words stuck. Wanting to come out. I proceed like its a normal day, because it is because no one can break the laws on my body that haven’t been created yet. Because of one cross stitch in my identity. But the man he does it because he’s a man right? 33
From famous to infamous, Harvey Weinstein has been convicted of harassing women in the workplace. This created a chain reaction of other women coming out about how they were mistreated. My poem, “We are,” explores the issue of injustice among women. For the past year, more women have been telling their stories about being exploited in their workplace. This has created a worldwide movement that has inspired many women to share their stories about men treating them inappropriately. The repetition in my poem emphasises the importance of my issue. The word “we” is repeated throughout my poem to create a strong sense of community. I was inspired by the structure and repetition in the poem “What I Will” by Suheir Hammad. The word “I” is used throughout the poem to portray a sense of ownership and strength. The short line lengths and repetition in her poem creates a strong and serious tone. A better future starts here with all of us working together to fight for women’s rights.
We Are â€“ Maya Fong
We are stolen from. We are made into jokes. We are less. What made us deserve this treatment? What are we doing wrong? How do we get what we want? Are we not asking for enough? Hand in hand. We, stand strong. Fighting for the day were we get what we deserve. We will fight and fight. Till we are seen as more because we deserve more more respect, more equality, more justice, more power.
There’s a secret relationship that we have all been involved in that is so toxic, yet may feel unable to leave behind. At some point in your personal or professional life, you’ve flirted with or have had a full-on relationship with failure. Although we all know it’s wrong and that no good could come of our entanglement, we’ve found ourselves sucked back into this engagement. Throughout her poem, “to the oldest tree in the world,” Leanne Simpson addresses how Aboriginal land has been stripped from the Indigenous people and has not been taken care of in the same manner by the new settlers. Simpson personifies the tree in order to express her loving relationship with her homeland. Using Leanne Simpson’s poem as a springboard, I decided to personify failure in my free verse poem, “Mask of Resilience.” This poem captures the complexities of a relationship with failure and the fear that failure has instilled in the speaker by using metaphors, imagery, and personification. I discuss how many people in a competitive environment have trouble in the face of failure regardless of its benefits in the long run. The poem captures a one sided a conversation with failure, where the speaker is almost thanking it for its presence and the fight that it brought out of them.
Mask of Resiliance – Megan Chen My fear of You is justified, for you stood with furrowed brow and clenched fists, your stern smile unchanging. This meant confrontation. An admission of guilt, to something that never should have been. I acted the role I was taught The Endless Idealist. But, your shadow never strayed from pursuing my success. I empty out troubled thoughts to exhale my distaste of your presence, - quite futile I know like staring when blind. You’ve taught me resilience is merely a mask. However, if I can wait and not get tired of waiting. If I can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same, then perhaps the mask is real? I watched the things I gave my life to crumble at your will. Yet I’ll sweep them up with worn out tools, for “character consists of what I do on the third and fourth try.”
Youth mental health is becoming a serious public issue. Unfortunately, the importance of helping those in need seems still to be regularly dismissed. In my poem, “Spiral,” I share the frustration I have for not being able to get the help I need because of my age, so poetry seemed like a fitting way to articulate this frustration. “Spiral” was inspired by the poem “What I Will” by Suheir Hammad, who repeats the phrase “I will not dance to your drum” as a way to show her wish to remain at peace. I repeat my first lines because these are the actions I need to take when I am spiralling. Another similarity between the poems is the use of figurative language. The spiral I refer to in my poem is a symbol of my fight with my mental health, just as the war drum in “What I Will” is a symbol for war itself. This poem is recognition of an issue I am passionate about, and it stands as a symbol for the fight I am willing to go through for my mental health.
Spiral –Maren Gilbert-Stewart Breathe in for five, out for five.
I stretch my hands out in front of me and reach forwards with my fingers laced. My ephemeral unawareness of being awake begins to wear off and slowly, I crawl out of my unending spiral every bone in my body begging me to sleep again. But I stand up. It doesn’t feel good, but at least I tried.
Breathe in for five, out for five. I keep saying I’m not trying to be dramatic, it’s out of my control, but that doesn’t stop the fifth doctor I’ve seen this week from eyeing me up and down, deciding whether or not I deserve her help. She tells me to breathe, I say I’ve tried that. She tells me to do yoga, and I laugh, because I can’t tell if she isn’t very smart or if she hates me. Breathe in for five, out for five. I lie awake again at 2:00 am trying to process the incomprehensible in which a man tells me my mental health can stay on the waitlist for one more year. They couldn’t help me now even if they wanted to. These doctors are much better at making me feel worse. I decide I’ll just have to try again in the morning, and I settle under my gossamer blanket of hope. I try to breathe in for five, out for five. But this time I am shaking I am crying I am malice I am broken I am dull eyes I am a dead end. But I am going to breathe in for five, out for five.
The divide between classes can feel obvious or overstated in certain situations, and this divide can make people feel undesired or neglected. In the podcast, “Three Miles” by This American Life, high school students from an inner city school visit an elite private school and experience first hand the divide in race and social class. I was inspired by these issues to write my free verse poem, “Definite Divide.” The poem is written from the perspective of a woman in the pocast - a black girl and the people of her race. I wanted to explore the divide from a perspective I haven’t seen from, as the speaker explains her life and the lives of her people in comparison to those of a race with more opportunities. She compares aspects of privilege and fear through frustration and fury in her voice. The word “class” is used throughout my poem, and is a play on words, as it is used in the context of race, social class, and classrooms.
Definite Divide â€“ Mira Gill Two classes. One class with no setbacks and no restrictions. With the world set up for them. Unlimited opportunities. Free. One class with walls and barriers. Thought of as unworthy. Limited opportunities. Trapped. A system of division, mentally draining, physically frustrating; a constant brawl transpiring in my brain. Prerogative. Privileged and elite, with no idea of a world outside their walls, unknowing of the other side, safety not a question. Money not of mention. We are invisible. Black. A colour. A race. The bronx versus Madison Avenue, ghetto versus upscale, a barrier. Disadvantaged and vulnerable, unsure where I will end up tomorrow. Me. We. Fear of my worth, fear of my ability no one expects of me but myself. A mental game. But the boundaries are set. We are invisible. We are the other class. 41
eyes, ears, Real World – Saphren Gill While depicting the fight for breath, and the strength one must hold in order to exercise their voice, Lee Maracle revives her struggle as an Aboriginal woman in her poem, “Breath is Wind.” Maracle has developed each word of her title, which I then mirrored in order to illustrate an overarching theme that represents my quote. Throughout the poem “eyes, ears, Real World”, my use of smoke-related metaphors depict how naivety, though unintentional, can force one’s senses into an unconscious state. Upon dipping into reality, the speaker lies “senseless of [her] senses,” therefore succumbing to the unavoidable “Real World”. I have detailed how the “Real World’s” merciless environment has impaired the speaker’s self-certainty, leaving her doubtful of the public’s sincerity. A distinct shift directs the speaker into victim-like plight, as she feels failed by her naive instincts. Her trust in both humanity and herself dissolves throughout the poem as the speaker is being suffocated by the “Real World.”
I am blind to what I cannot see; I am deaf to sounds not loud enough to hear; and yet, that is what needs to be heard, and that is what needs to be seen. My realism is as loud as my sight. I have yet to live in those clouds because down here lie my known unknowns. But the overcast can absorb me. The fall out of delusion is not the option I chose, but an impulse I had to settle for. The Real World is never just blue; the heavy grey eventually suffocates my senses until all I can inhale is pure smoketoo thick to pierce, leaving nothing but ignorance for me to choke on. I can only breathe beneath the invulnerable blue, which is surreal in the Real World, and unreachable in this Real World. My realism is only as loud as my sight. But those sounds are what need to be heard, and those sights are what need to be seen. Senseless of my senses; I embody no eyes, no ears suitable for this Real World.
In the poem “Breath is Wind” by Lee Maracle, a response is formed based on a sto:lo teaching: “The Call: Breath is wind, Voice is Wind, Wind is power.” Maracle responds by portraying words and language as a form of connection and power. What stood out to me was the fact that Maracle uses a baby to symbolize the importance of words and language because conventionally adults are the ones who are able to “change the world” based on what they say. The power of language changes from being able to make a difference to having the ability to bring someone joy and connection. In my poem, “When I was Young,” the aphorism that is passed through generations in my family is illustrated as a comparison between the older and younger generations’ lifestyles. It shows the drastic gap between what their lives used to look like and our generation’s upbeat and technological lifestyle. Similar to Maracle, I have a shift where it switches from what my mom says and what I will say in the future. This gives a clear view to the audience of the privileges we have now compared to my mom’s childhood. 44
Five years. Ten years. Twenty years. When I was young, I knew how to wash the dishes. When I was young, I did my homework myself. When I was young, I fed the dog. When I was young, I played the piano. The expectations, comparisons, and worries I had because I thought I wasn’t accomplished. Talented. When I was young, apple was just a fruit, not some high tech company. When I was young, I didn’t have an allowance, I had to work at the age of 12. When I was young, I sewed and mended my own clothes, there was no such thing as “let’s go shopping.” Now you say . . . When I was young, I could fly in airplanes. When I was young, I could shop online. When I was young, I had devices that located you in seconds. Now we say…
People today are often more concerned with what others think of them and the ideal image they must fit into. In my poem, “Listen up Dreamers,” I discuss the issue of how people can lose sight of their own desires and dreams, forgetting that they themselves are an individual in life and do not need to be influenced by others’ choices. The speaker does not speak to one, but all audience members, making a statement to the many idealists in the world. It Both “What I Will” by Suheir Hammad and “Listen up Dreamers” convey a powerful tone. Hammad’s poem, “What I Will” inspired me as she expresses her opinions and ideas of strength, unity, and courage by using repetition and rhythm, developing a sense of urgency as the poem builds. There is a sense of hopefulness and understanding within my poem, acknowledging audience members that may struggle with this issue daily. While the theme individual vs. society is significant, it also touches on the idea of finding hope in times of despair in the poem. Overall, the message I am trying to convey is to create a feeling of hope and promise to the audience, even if they are lost in life and seem to not be able to find their own path.
Listen up Dreamers – Mia Hope We like to dream well, most of us do. We like to see dreams come to life, be alive, let our eyes behold visions upon visions of the unexplainable. They deceive us. They deceive me. Dreamers know this. We want to be part of the silver screen that doesn’t seem to exist. Dreamers we want to find things ordinary people cannot discover. Will not treasure. But dreamer don’t lose sight of what ordinary people hide and conceal. The ordinary will try to consume you and make you their ideal. Oh dreamer you are not theirs to heal. What is there to heal? Hey dreamer come hang with us for a while. We like your style, we like your moves, we like the way you groove. They’re all drifters what can you do? You just gotta know what place, you fit into. 47
Breaking boundaries. Breaking barriers. Breaking the status quo. In the podcast “Three Miles” by This American Life, a unique story about a pen pal buddy system between an elite private school and an inner city school unfolds. While visiting the elite private school, many inner city school students felt great defeat knowing they would never be able to live such a privileged lifestyle. One of the students, Raquel, saw this visit as a positive turning point in her life; this visit motivated her to change her socioeconomic status all on her own. Raquel’s persistent drive allowed her to break the status quo, graduate from college, and it inspired me to write a free verse poem, “My House.” In my poem, the speaker must repair the house they have been given. The house is used as an extended metaphor to represent what the speaker has been born into which is out of their control. Raquel’s “house” was determined for her, and she knew she had to repair her house on her own. The anomaly of Raquel’s story should inspire us all. The reconstruction of our own houses can represent our family, economic status, or even health, mental or physical. We can all accept fate how it is, or we can be a Raquel.
My House - Hanna Kolof I live alone in the house they built for me. I hide within the feeble walls, the crooked roof and busted fence afraid and defenceless, I am trapped. I live alone in the house I did not choose. I drown amongst a flooding foundation, unbalanced beams and weeping pipes low and wasted, I am suffering. I am tormented and panicked. I know this house must change. I live alone in the house I must repair. I seize the opportunity to move away from despair terrified and vulnerable, I am hopeful. I live alone in the house I am building for me. I caulk the wounds to seal the hurt paint the walls, remove the dirt bold and fierce, feeling free. I live alone in the house I have built for me. I fix continuously when cracks reappear. I struggle to live peacefully without the fear this is the key, for I know too well, there is no guarantee. I live alone in my house. 49
People often look forward to eating and sharing a delicious meal together. However, I am always annoyed when my food touches, especially when liquid and solid food mingle. In the poem “Emergency” I was inspired by the way Leanne Simpson personified a tree in her poem “to the oldest tree in the world ” in order to express the idea that Aboriginal peoples have been denied their right to land. So I decided to personify the food that I eat for Thanksgiving dinner. I wrote my poem from the food’s perspective on how they feel and react when they touch each other. In the beginning of my poem it seems like the perfect meal, however things soon turn into a disaster. Stanza 5 has short line lengths and is one large stanza to create the effect of mayhem. I want it to seem like many things are happening at once and that everything is out of control. The next time you have a meal I challenge you to put yourself in your food’s perspective, and think about what they would say to you.
Emergency – Justyna Lam Thanksgiving dinner, the most extravagant meal of the year. Family gathered around the table scooping bucket loads of food onto their immaculate plates. Tender and juicy turkey, vibrant red cranberry sauce, fluffy seasoned stuffing, bright and glimmering corn, crispy green brussel sprouts, moist and crumbling garlic bread. And GRAVY My worst nightmare, slowly creeping and then oozing onto my plate creating a pool for my food to drown in. The brussels sprouts’ leafy heads bob up and down, and up and down gasping for air, then the life withers out of them. The garlic bread cries out in pain, then becomes limp. I can hear my corn screaming 911 as it floats on its back waiting to be revived. The knifeguard quickly comes to the rescue scrambling to save all the contaminated victims but there are too many… Can they all be saved? Is it too late? Finally my fork comes to assist. Impaling the food one by one to put the injured out of their misery.
Two Faced – Ming Lim My poem, “Two Faced,” explores the idea of self-identity and multi-identities, as well as society’s expectations in terms of what they want and idealism in terms of who you should be. I use the words color, art, and images as metaphors for a person’s personality, interests, and self-expression. In the inspirational poem, “What I Will” by Suheir Hammad, she uses “war drum” to symbolize people’s own beliefs and actions. Similarly, in “Two Faced,” the shifts and punctuation are used to convey the narrator’s own thoughts, personal growth, realizations, and self-discovery. After the first shift, the narrator starts questioning their own identity. During the second shift, the speaker comes to a realization of who they are, what they believe in, how they have changed, as well as how they have created a new identity for other people’s satisfaction. The concept of this poem is the idea of not forgetting who you are, what you believe in, or what your morals and values are. Furthermore I explore the idea of not letting other people define how you express yourself - or make you forget who you are as a person.
I am afraid to paint the colours nobody accepts, to draw the images that will make people criticize. I am afraid to truly put my heart on a page, to only get rejected. I cover my heart with the colors that will satisfy, that will make them stop, and look, and smile. To force a compliment on a heart, a heart that is not mine. I paint colours that don’t belong to me that I don’t like I draw images that don’t represent me, I display something that is a stranger to me, I painted a heart I don’t know. I don’t know who I am anymore. I do not know who I am. (this colour doesn’t belong to me this image doesn’t belong to me this art doesn’t belong to me) this art isn’t mine I don’t belong to me. I am lost and drowning in colours I loathe, I am drowning in fake compliments, I am drowning in a person that is not me. This person is not me, I didn’t create THIS me, they did, they created THIS me. And I let them.
Drink It In – Chloe Pulver As life goes on, we make, we remember, and we forget the times we have gone through that make us who we are. The poem that I have written entitled “Drink It In” is my personal response to the saying “Take a Mental Cocktail,” which is commonly used in my family. This saying explores the idea of taking in your surroundings and understanding their impact on your life experience. Similarly to Lee Maracle’s “Breath is Wind,” I have described how this quote plays a role throughout the course of a person’s life. Starting at when the speaker “took [their] first breath,” and going all the way through their life, the speaker describes how they retain memories. Using waves as a metaphor for time, I have outlined how we are able to absorb emotions at certain moments and save them to think about later in our life. I also describe how as you begin adulthood you are able to remember these emotions and experiences more clearly. Through the use of imagery, I have also depicted how when we look back on these moments they leave a certain taste in our mouths. It is important to not only acknowledge how these waves make us feel, but to also embrace them when they come. 54
From when I took my first breath until my last. Waves of time wash over me. They wash over me unless I drink in the water. Sometimes salty like the ocean, but sometimes pure and sweet like a glacier. It is these sweet sips that sustain me, for they rid the salty taste of all the troublesome times, and fill my belly with satisfaction. This water enables me to endure the waves I otherwise wouldnâ€™t stomach. When I was small, I took one sip and spat it out. Babies are too young to drink anyways. And these waves might knock us down, but eventually I grew up. And suddenly I acquired a taste for the memories I hold close. That are for only me Or others I give a sip. A sip of my cocktail. Full of whimsy and passion or heartache but eventually my glass becomes full, and some begins to spill out, but that only makes room for more. 55
The Hate you Give – Allison Shan My poem, “The Hate You Give” explores the problems with racism that many people face every day. It is inspired by Suheir Hammad’s poem, “What I Will,” in which she talks about adversity and standing up for oneself. The fundamental theme of my poem is that racism lives within each and every one of us. We see people of different nationalities and make assumptions about them based on their appearance. The poem uses shorter lines near the beginning to bring emphasis to certain words and longer lines as the poem progresses to match the tone as the speaker gets more passionate about racism. This technique mimics a rant or a tirade against racism. As well, metaphors of colours and separating laundry are used to represent how we look at people’s appearance and “group” them in our minds into racial categories. I hope my poem causes you to think about how each of us are responsible for our thoughts and actions and that we are the agents of our own change. Enjoy!
White. Black. Brown. Racism is among us, within us. I see it too. - The separation My skin a permanent tat to always remind me that I stand out. I see you staring. Where do you live? Canada. No, I mean where are you from? The answer remains the same. I am Canadian. I was born true north strong and free, I belong. The invisible borders, between you and me, will remain forever. White, Black Asian, Hispanic. Separated by colour like a load of laundry. Microaggression to flat out racial tension. Iâ€™ve seen it all. This segregation. Who cares? Raise the white flag. Our muscles, organs, and souls are human. We are human. Racism is a contagion within us. Isolating us. Infecting us. One by one. The only way to stop the spread is to create immunity. To end the hate you give. The hate we give. The hate I live.
Stuck –Taylor Shen Suheir Hammad beautifully yet aggressively stands firm while refusing to comply, throughout her poem “What I Will.” When addressing the issue of the “ideal” body size, I was able to take Suheir’s contentious and attacking tone and use it to convey the message of my free-verse poem, “Stuck.” In trying to mimic Hammad’s techniques, the speaker throughout my poem addresses and tackles the everyday thoughts we all have in throughout our lives about our bodies, especially in the modern world of media. Hammad also speaks with passion and commitment about her issue to getting the message across. The resentful tone developed in my poem focuses on the powerful and damaging things everyone hears or even sees, while also recognizing the forceful effect it has on our health and mentality. Everyone is beautiful and we all have different ways of expressing our confidence, but we have to wonder how this one standard has become so prominent in our everyday lives.
Pressure to look like that. A screen, has the power to change my mindset. A picture, has the ability to change my health. Magazines, posters, photoshoots, hold the power of influence. Labels. The powerhouse of society. “Plus-size” does not further acceptance, it isolates the nonconforming ideal. Can I overcome judgement and standards? Can I walk past a mirror without wishing I could change something? I can look at a model and think I’m finebut that’s just a show. The show of not letting the pressure affect me. The show of convincing you - I’m fine. Society makes this normal. An ad that says “Get abs in 3 weeks?” Of course. Media determines what your own body needs. Yours. Society wants to accept. Progress made? Of course. More acknowledgement? Definitely. Nevertheless, that standard remains and there’s no way of getting rid of it.
She is Go(o)d – Rosie Smith Many of us are not racists. If this is as true as many claim then how is it that to some extent, most of us here have perpetuated the social construct of white superiority? And encouraged others to do the same? In my spoken word poem “She is Go(o)d” the use of repetition, irony, and word play portrays the white-Western-saviour mentality and how we as a “developed” country need to change the ways in which we extend help to “developing” countries. My poem is inspired by Suheir Hammad’s powerful poem “break (clustered).” In this poem the speaker uses repetition to convey a passionate message about war and its impact on humans. Listen for how my poem uses the same repetition tactics to iterate the idea that Callie, the Canadian girl from a private school, believes she will go and help a struggling community on a service trip.
Kizza is in Uganda. She is tired and hungry and alone. No one is there to help her No one is there to save her. Callie is in Canada. She goes to private school, she wants to do good, she wants to be good. She is told to “try international service.” “Serve us” thinks Kizza. Build us a house, build us a library, build us a school. Build us a life to be happy We need you. Callie is uneducated, unprepared, inexperienced, and ready to go. She will perpetuate a white-knight mentality, she will circulate this idea, so it will not move, forward. This community will provide an opportunity on her resume so that she will benefit. Why else would she help? Why else would she care? Why? Whi. Whit. White. She is white. She is the white-knight. She is their saviour.
What have you heard all your life? What are the phrases that have been ingrained in your head since the day you were born? These words have shaped you, constructed you, and inspired you. Lee Maracle’s poem, “Breath is Wind,” encompasses her sto:lo teaching and her growth that followed. “The Call: breath is wind, voice is wind, wind is power,” is the teaching that led Maracle to discover her power in speech. Maracle uses the repetition of diction such as “murmurs,” “vocables,” and “whispering” to draw connections through stanzas to the teaching. Each stanza that follows is years later in her life; with a deeper and solidifying connection to her voice. Inspired by Maracle, my poem “Live Everyday Like it’s Your Last” focuses on the phrase that my parents have reinforced throughout my life. Tomorrow is a blessing, a new beginning, yet when you are young you cannot comprehend there is an end. Similar to Maracle, my stanzas are a journey, such as ignorance, fear, and confusion. The metaphor, “I am a passing memory like clouds overhead,” shows the speaker’s initial fear of not being remembered. Additionally, the third stanza encompasses a shift of tone, as the speaker is looking for direction on how to live her best life. The repeated exposure to certain phrases and words have the ability to alter our lives. However, do the words hold the power or does the speaker put the power in the words? 62
Live Everyday like it’s Your Last –Hannah Wells I came into life, granted some time unaware I had a deadline, a flatline, no longer breathing, no longer experiencing. I am a passing memorylike clouds overhead. “Live a great life.” It weighs me down. My heart pounds at the thought of the end, the idea of it all coming to a stop my thoughts, my breath, my actions, my life. “Live every day like it’s your last.” But how? Do I need a checklist? A finish line to cross? A guiding arrow? Yet, I am afraid of the darkness the unknown. Unable to dive in to take the next step. Is this my ending? 63
In English 11 this year, students wrote poetry in reaction to podcasts, poems, and spoken word artists. At the heart of our unit was the que...
Published on Mar 15, 2018
In English 11 this year, students wrote poetry in reaction to podcasts, poems, and spoken word artists. At the heart of our unit was the que...