Natalie Lim, a Vancouver-born, Chinese-Canadian poet, won the 2018 CBC poetry prize with her first public poem submission: “Arrhythmia.” This surprise success has encouraged her to continue to explore her heritage and share her work.
Lim explains that writing has always been part of her life, but that it was the discovery of spoken word YouTube videos that really persuaded her to finally put pen to paper in poetic form.
“The performances made me realize that poetry doesn’t necessarily have to rhyme, and that the topics these artists covered were contemporary issues that I was able to connect to,” says Lim. “For me, this opened the door to poetry, and I have been writing ever since.”
Inspiration from disconnection
Until “Arrhythmia” Lim kept most of her work private, using poetry during high school as a platform for self-expression. With her award-winning poem, she began to dissect her feelings of disconnection to her Chinese culture.
“The feelings of not being able to connect to my culture through language or being able to communicate with my grandparents has been something I had been wrestling with for a while,” she says.”I also had some thoughts and images related to the subject that I really wanted to talk about and the poem came out of that.”
Stephen Collis, English professor and poet at SFU, encouraged her to add Chinese words to her poem.
“This helped me unlock the connection to my language,” says Lim.
“Arrhythmia” is also a touching memento for Lim’s family.
“My mom was the first person to read it in my family. She said ‘this is really good but I didn’t know that this could be poetry..it doesn’t rhyme!.’ My grandparents understand that I won a prize and are super proud of me. I am close to getting a full Chinese translation done of the poem for them to read,”
As Lim enters her last semester as an English major at SFU, her long term focus is on a marketing/communications career in technology, but she says that poetry will always be a part of her life.
“I am always going to be writing,” she says. “I will keep sharing my work as long as people want to read it!” she says jokingly.
Two of Lim’s new poems are soon to be published in literary magazine Honey & Lime.
“I am very excited about these two poems’” she says. “One was inspired by Isabella Wang who is a local 18 year old poet, while the other was inspired by a visit to a class of grade 10s where I did a Q & A about writing poetry.”
As for her advice for budding poets, Lim suggests they “read a lot of poetry, and listen to a lot of poetry – it is really amazing what you can learn from others. Then just keep writing and sharing your work!”
For more information, please visit www.natalielim.ca