Odes & Laments

By Fiona Tinwei Lam

Categories: Poetry, BIPOC
Imprint: Caitlin Press
Paperback : 9781773860152, 96 pages, September 2019

A new collection by award-winning poet Fiona Tinwei Lam that explores what it means to live in an environment constantly under threat and that challenges our perceptions of the everyday, transforming the mundane into the sublime.


Through poems that celebrate the overlooked beauty in the everyday or that mourn human incursions upon the natural world, Fiona Tinwei Lam weaves polythematic threads into a shimmering tapestry that reveals the complexities of being human in an environment under threat. Inspired by Pablo Neruda's Elemental Odes, this wide-ranging and diverse collection plays with the yin and yang of everyday existence, employing lyricism, narrative, humour and an occasional dash of irreverence and fun through visual play with text and typography.


'Fiona Tinwei Lam's Odes & Laments is a collection of poems that speak with lyrical eloquence of the beauty of a world under threat. A wry wit weaves itself through this collection, leavening the poems of lament with poems of praise, sometimes surprising the reader with exuberant forays across the page in the form of concrete poems. But even in the playful moments there is seriousness, and even in the laments there is the deep consolation of a focussed and intelligent attention. 'As the world smoulders,' writes Tinwei Lam, 'let each poem be/a fallen tree's tongue.' As the world transforms, these odes and laments in their concentrated attentiveness are love songs to the fragile, ordinary, vanishing objects and beings of this fraught time.'' --Rachel Rose

“The poems in Fiona Tinwei Lam’s latest collection, Odes & Laments, are both sharp and rich, brimming with insight and optimism. While the collection spans the spectrum from the lyric to the concrete, these poems always seem to cohere, always find a place, always intertwine and interconnect. Odes & Laments is an excellent book! And one that I am excited to return to again and again.”

—Jordan Abel

“Take the time to enjoy the poignant and beautiful Odes & Laments, its Neruda-like attention to ordinary things, its poems about rivers and waterways, its graphic poems about plastics. The collection pays attention to the environment and our place within the planet’s ecosystems, and to our human disruptions and desecrations of that harmony. The poems about cancer are particularly powerful.”

—Susan McCaslin

“Lam’s poetry highlights the omnipresent combination of joy and pain in life. […] Odes & Laments acknowledges the tragedy of being, guides the reader through these emotions with grace, and reminds us that there is endless beauty in even the smallest object or moment.”