Local writers use poetry to combat loneliness and isolation

Poetry sharing workshops go online

Every year, Richmond’s Chinese writers meet in a local coffee shop to share their poetry, exchange ideas and garner inspiration.

COVID-19 put a stop to the coffee shop part of this year’s gathering, but it couldn’t put a halt on creative expression and comradery.

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On July 4, more than 30 writers joined the group’s poetry salon via Zoom to share work they had created during the pandemic.

“We can’t imagine how the world will look after COVID-19. However, we can still find a moment of peace despite global uncertainty,” said William Chan, current chair of the Chinese Canadian Writers’ Association (CCWA) and event organizer.

According to Chan, the online meeting went far better than expected, and whatever was lost by not having the poets meet in person was offset by the fact artists from across the country could join in.
“We had some poets from the East Coast,” Chan added.

While the work shared was created during the pandemic, not all of it was about the pandemic.

“Some wrote about the arrival of spring and the past Canada Day.

“As writers, we need to keep reading more, thinking more and writing more during this crisis. We need to use our work to connect with the rest of the world,” said Chan. 

During the Zoom meeting, Richmond writer Dong Dong shared his latest work called The Cry of the Cherry Blossom, which is about cherry trees blooming in April but with so few people out to admire them due to COVID-19. 

“The sakura blossoms alone on the trees, not knowing when people will lay their eyes on their beauty...Planting hope for the next spring; together we will see the whole city covered in pink blankets next year,” Dong wrote (translated from Chinese), noting he created the poem after taking a walk along Richmond’s West Dyke Trail. 

“Many people were stuck at home back in April, leaving the trail so empty. In past years, the path would have been packed with people busy taking photos of the blossoming cherry trees. There was a sense of loneliness hovering over me and the emptiness was slowly swallowing me. 

“However, I believe this storm will pass and, together, humankind will overcome this,” said Dong. He is already looking forward to enjoying the beauty of the cherry trees with other Richmondites next year. 

Chan said his organization plans to host another online poetry event in September and hopes writers from different cultural backgrounds will join them. 

“Poems and prose bring out the beauty of the world and our faith in humanity; we can all be connected through words,” said Chan.


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