Yaya Yao is an educator, writer, and editor born and raised in Little Portugal who launched her first poetry collection Flesh, Tongue last week. She is also the author of a resource book for teachers, The Educator’s Equity Companion Guide. Yaya lives with her family in Sapporo, Japan, where she teaches middle school.
“This has been my dream since my aunt gave me an Anne of Green Gables diary,” Yaya Yao said from the stage at Beit Zatoun in Mirvish Village, admitting to reading all the Anne books then starting to write “angsty poems” about arguments with parents, crushes and other hallmarks of teenage years before she moved on to “trying to figure out what’s going on in this world”.
Yaya countered her frequent jokes with affecting poems from her debut collection, published by Mawenzi House, including the particularly moving “For My High School Sweetheart”, an elegy for not just a person but Yaya’s gentrifying childhood neighbourhood – Bathurst & Dundas, in Toronto – that beautifully evokes young women writing poems to each other and “learning to inhale at midnight” in Alexandra Park. Other highlights included several poems focusing on language, and on a common experience for children of immigrants: the almost mandatory “roots visit” to the country of parents’ origin. She prefaced “Moving Time” with remarks on expressing oneself differently depending on the language one is using, and followed up with poems from a series called “Cantonese Lessons”, complete with a hearty call and response section, from which this attendee walked away with a better grasp of how to swear in a new language.
If you happened to miss this memorable launch, you’re in luck: Brockton Writers Series is proud to welcome Yaya and her introspective, clever, sincere yet irreverent poems next Wednesday, July 13. Don’t miss her this time!
Yaya Yao visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, July 13, 2016 – full of beans Coffee House & Roastery, 1348 Dundas St. W., Toronto (6:30pm, PWYC) – along with Gwen Benaway, Kumasi Jay Gwynne, Matthew R. Loney and a special guest talk by Rachna Contractor of Plenitude Magazine, co-presenter of this year’s BWS Queer Night!