Emily Dickinson enthusiast and table tennis master, Anna Yin was born in China, and immigrated to Canada in 1999. Although a software developer by nature, Anna found that through her study of the English language she became more and more attracted to poetry. She has authored five poetry books, including Wings Toward Sunlight (2011) and Inhaling the Silence (2013), which were published by Mosaic Press. Her latest book, Seven Nights with the Chinese Zodiac (2015) is published by Black Moss Press. Her poems in English and Chinese, as well as ten translations have been included in a Canadian Studies textbook used by Humber College. She has published more than 100 English and Chinese poems published since 2004 which can be seen in varying and diverse places such as the New York Times, Rice paper Magazine, and Arc Poetry etc. Anna’s commitment to diversity and revitalizing poetry can be seen many times throughout the body of her work including her “Poetry Alive” events which blend poetry, computer arts and audience interaction. It can also be seen through her presence in the “Poetry in Transit Project” where her poem “Still Life” was displayed on 700 buses across Canada. Anna has won a number of poetry awards including the 2005 Ted Plantos Memorial Award, the 2010/2014 MARTY Literary Arts Awards and a 2013 CPAC Professional Achievement Award. She was a finalist for Canada’s Top 25 Canadian Immigrants Awards in 2011 and is again a finalist in 2012. She is the Ontario representative to the League of Canadian Poets (2013-2016) as well as being Mississauga’s first Poet Laureate. Anna holds a B.S. C degree from Nanjing University and a Creative Writing Certificate from the University of Toronto. She currently lives and works in Mississauga.
1. What is it that attracts you to poetry? Why don’t you write for instance, short stories or novels?
I like the freedom, the briefness and mystery effects of poetry. Poetry speaks to me and comes to me naturally, amazingly. I like the feeling of being blessed with poetry.
2. Who are some of your favorite poets and how, if at all, does their writing influence yours?
Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, Dorothy Livesay, P.K.Page are my favorite poets. As you see, all are female poets. But I do love a lot of other poets’ works. Various styles of poetry from both the Eastern world and western world. From Dickinson, I could learn how to open and use bold metaphor, from Plath, how to be dark yet still beautiful. And from P.K.Page, be free to spread colors into our daily life.
3. What do you wish to accomplish with your poetry?
I hope that my poetry has many layers’ meaning and depth. I hope it can reach out the various people and touch them not only in their heart but also root there.
4. What are your plans as Mississauga’s First Poet Laureate?
I hope to encourage more people read and write poetry through our new Haiku Walking Tour/Postcard Poetry project which we might develop our city’s online poetry map in the future. I hope to interview more local people and poets and let them share their thoughts about poetry. I also hope to develop some exchange/joint projects with other cities/countries.
5. You give a lot of workshops in schools about how to write. What interests you about the education of poetry that makes you get so involved in teaching these workshops? And what advice would you give to a young poet?
I have seen how poetry changed me and let me be happy and led me a meaningful life. I want to share this with students. In this material world which money rules everything, it is easy to get lost, I hope through learning how to write and appreciate poetry, the students could find the beauty in the world and in themselves.
My advice is to be true to yourself, be brave to write something you care. It is ok if you see the good angel and the bad angel in most of us. Don’t worry. Through reading good poetry, you are accompanying with good angels.
Interview courtesy of Samantha Badaoa. Filming done by Grace Howes.