Odes & Laments

Caitlin Press, 2019

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. Inspired by Pablo Neruda’s Odes to Common Things, this wide-ranging and diverse collection contains poems that range from the lyric to the concrete/visual while confronting the pressing environmental issues of our time. Ardent, despairing, playful or political, Lam brings an eloquent tenderness to her depictions of our flawed but glorious world.

  • Quoted in All Lit Up, Sept 26/19 about the inspiration of Pablo Neruda’s Odes to Common Things and the epigraph that opens the collection
  • North by Northwest, CBC Radio interview (Feb 9/20) with Sheryl MacKay (55:10 mark)
  • 12 or 20 questions blog interview with rob mclennan


  • “There is a brilliant simplicity to Odes & Laments (Caitlin Press), a collection that praises the small, mundane and ordinary, while mourning personal and global losses brought by human hands. With this collection, Lam offers delight and despair side by side, inviting the reader to revel in the nexus between love and social responsibility….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.” SAD magazine (July 2020)
  • “Direct addresses to… plates, starfish, a sparrow that crashed into glass, feet (very cunning), and streams, draw the reader in, as do poems about wolves, salmon, Canuck the crow….“Spectrum” is an outstanding sequence, often surprisingly funny about a one-month hospital stay. Lam is clearly part of a community, the world at large. Her response to a poem “How to Praise the Mutilated World,” by Zagajewski, is a beautiful “Anti-Litany,” an attempt to find joy in an increasingly polluted, desecrated planet…. ”  League of Canadian Poets (Oct 2020)
  •  “Presence is what is required to write a poem and Fiona Tinwei Lam shares that presence with us in her finely crafted poems…..There are various forms of poems in this diverse collection…as well as concrete poems in which the poems take on the shape of their subject…..[A] delightful and innovative approach to celebrate and mourn the things, the people, the natural world we so often overlook and even neglect.” Story Circle Network (Dec 2020)
  • “Lam engages especially with natural items that are part of the biosphere, part of our Earth cycle, an eloquent call to live peacefully with the planet, to reject practices that abase the cyclical nature of life….Odes and Laments is a forever book, one to read over and over pondering its wisdom, how it speaks below the surface, ever offering new insight in its alchemy.” Prism International (Jan 2022)
  • “There are images of melting ice caps and rising sea levels….The motif of plastic resurfaces throughout the book, standing for over abundance and over consumption, for the lasting physical effect of humans on this planet….The concreteness of these [concrete/visual] poems foregrounds how poetry makes words plastic, in the sense of malleable. The world is plastic, changeable. But the world is also plastic, cling-filmed over with what we have done to it.” Canadian Literature, 241 (2020)