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Poetry Canadian

Enter the Chrysanthemum

by (author) Fiona Tinwei Lam

Caitlin Press
Initial publish date
May 2009
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    May 2009
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 16
  • Grade: 11


'Enter the Chrysanthemum' is a luminous collection of poems about family, love and loss. Employing precise imagery and concise language, Lam plumbs and mines ordinary events and experiences to find a central core of poetic insight and sometimes harrowing truth. Whether written from the vantage point of a young child observing her parents, a single parent struggling to raise a child, or a daughter watching a parent's decline and death, these poems reconnect us to what itmeans to be human. 'Enter the Chrysanthemum' is Lam's second book of poetry.

"The poems follow a sonata-like structure, with four interlocking "movements", each building and spiralling upon the last. The motif of the chrysanthemum serves as the frame for the collection, shifting from a symbol of loss and absence to one of grace. Besides being a chronicle of a journey, I see this book as a tribute to my parents, and to parents and families in general, with all their flaws, passions, longings and struggles."

About the author

Fiona Tinwei Lam is a Scottish-born, Vancouver-based writer whose work has appeared in literary magazines across the country, as well as in the Globe & Mail, and anthologies in Canada, the US and Hong
Kong. Her work has also been featured as part of B.C.'s Poetry in Transit program. Her book of poetry, Intimate Distances (Nightwood 2002), was a finalist for the City of Vancouver Book Award. Twice short-listed for the Event literary non-fiction contest, she is a co-editor of and contributor to the anthology of personal essays, Double Lives: Writing and Motherhood (McGill-Queens University Press, 2008). Her work will also be appearing in Best Canadian Poetry 2010 (Tightrope Books, 2010), edited by Lorna Crozier. Her most recent collection of poetry, Enter the Chrysanthemum (Caitlin, 2009), depicts the journey into single parenthood, exploring themes of family, love and loss. She is a former lawyer.

Fiona Tinwei Lam's profile page

Librarian Reviews

Enter the Chrysanthemum

The poetry in this volume focuses largely on childhood memories of the poet’s parents and life as a single parent. Love is very much a theme in Lam’s collection, but love associated with pain and loss permeates many of her poems. She visits her father’s grave or describes her mother’s memory as a “skim of debris that disintegrates while she flounders in a nursing home”. Yet, despite her melancholy, Lam savours special moments spent with her parents and son, whether it is observing her father in the morning preparing for work or drinking chrysanthemum tea with her son. Using striking imagery and metaphor, Lam paints a passionate portrait of her life.

Lam’s Intimate Distances was a finalist for the City of Vancouver Book Award. Her work has appeared in Canadian literary magazines and anthologies such as The Fiddlehead, Prairie Fire and In Fine Form.

Source: The Association of Book Publishers of BC. BC Books for BC Schools. 2009-2010.

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