Writer in Residence

Things That Are Not Poetry, But Are

By Sennah Yee

  • When you and your friend message the same thing at the same time.
  • Ripe fruit, and new ways of describing it.
  • Remembering all the words and key changes to a song you thought you had forgotten at karaoke.
  • When I cry and my cat jumps onto my lap.
  • Notes in your phone.
  • Soft, smooth velour tracksuits.
  • Your diary.
  • Phantom Thread (2017): I remember seeing this in theaters and melting at Alma’s “I want you flat on your back” monologue. It is pure poetry - the delivery of it, the context, the lighting, everything. You can feel the texture of it on your skin like a garment. I remember my face flushing in the theatre at it.
  • My partner leaving me a written note while I’m on a video call that says pasta sauce heating on the stove for you.
  • Emails between my dad, aunts, and uncles, talking about their mum (my grandma) and how she's doing. She loves eating home-cooked meals. She loves reading her Chinese magazines in her armchair. She loves the balcony of her apartment, where she can see the trees of a nearby park. She loves marvelling at the size of buildings, designed, constructed, and lived in by people and machines.
  • Oozy egg yolk.
  • Watching your favourite sports team win, live.
  • Old Joy (2006): Kelly Reichardt adapted this from a short story by Jon Raymond in his collection Livability. Both of them use restraint in the most controlled way. They know exactly how much to give (just the right amount), when to give it (when you least expect it), and how to give it (softly).
  • Rare emojis - think peacock, think rockstar, think juicebox.
  • Recipes - yes, even, maybe especially, the long stories that precede them.
  • My best friend always sends me a postcard, no matter where she goes, for how little or long. I recognize her writing right away. I can see her smile through her lettering.
  • Sincere, honest, heartfelt apologies - written or spoken or acted.
  • Bonsai trees.
  • Watching the season finale of a show, live.
  • Warm rain.
  • Finding a photo of a memory you had forgotten.
  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019): This movie snuck up on me. The final scene left me crying out of shock at how many emotions were rushing back, thinking of love, past, present, and to come. I had to rush to the washroom to cry again afterwards.
  • Jumping into water and letting the sun dry you off.
  • Nightswims.
  • Knowing the moon is always there, even if you don’t write about it in a poem.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.

Sennah Yee is from Toronto, Ontario, where she writes poetry, short stories, and film criticism. Her first book, the creative nonfiction collection How Do I Look?, was published by Metatron Press in 2017. Her debut picture book, My Day with Gong Gong, was published by Annick Press in 2020.