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Quiet Night Think

9781770416253 | Poems and Essays
Published by ECW Press, April 2022

"One function of the poet at any time is to discover by his own thought and feeling what seems to him to be poetry at that time," writes Wallace Stevens. In Quiet Night Think, award-winning poet Gillian Sze adds her voice to Canadian literature and expresses her own definition.

Written during the remarkable period of early parenthood, Sze's new maternal role urges her to contemplate her own origins, both familial and artistic. Comprised of six personal essays, poems, and a concluding long poem, Quiet Night Think takes its title from a direct translation of an eighth century Chinese poem by Li Bai, the subject of the opening essay. Sze's memory of reading Li Bai's poem as a child marks the beginning of an unshakable encounter with poetry. What follows is an intimate anatomization of her particular entanglement with languages and cultures.

In her most generically diverse book yet, Sze moves between poetry and prose, mother and writer, the lyrical and the autobiographical, all the while inviting readers to meditate with her on questions of emergence and transformation: What are you trying to be? Where does a word break off? What calls to us throughout the night?

Available online and hopefully at your local bookstore.

Some kind words:

Quiet Night Think is a stunning work. Gillian Sze has "the acrobatic ear" and a generous mind. To be a mother, a daughter, a writer, a self - through reflection and poetry, essay and remembrance, these fragile threads carry one another in profound, transporting ways. I know I will return to this extraordinary book again and again.

—MADELEINE THIEN, author of Do Not Say We Have Nothing

In Quiet Night Think Gillian Sze both explains and reenacts the piercing clarity of the poets that came before her, and bore her. She carries on their boldness in these spare, elegant pieces: bold because spareness brings with it the great risk of misunderstanding. But it also holds within it an enormous amount of trust and goodwill, that the reader can and will breathe into the gaps, and fill them with knowing. This is an act of love, and readers will be grateful for Sze's beautifully brave work.

—THEA LIM, author of An Ocean of Minutes

Quiet Night Think by Gillian Sze is a collection of finely observed poems and invitingly associative essays, in which Sze muses on language, translation, and individual words, across English, Mandarin, and her family's dialect, Hokkien.


Throughout the book, in poetry and prose, Sze deals with the process of loss - whether in the process of translation or in the move from one life stage to another - and finds that losing something can also mean gaining something new.


Sze draws on emotion-imbued imagery from nature, daily observations and intellectual investigations, punctuated by intimate, often heart-rending glimmers that captivate all the way to the book's end.


Quiet Night Think is the result of Sze's attempt to capture the belly of her life on the page; an attempt to see, like the parting of a curtain, what is illuminated and what lives in the dark. It is a beautiful exploration of form and identity - of disappointment, of appreciation, of language. Of the everyday moments that offer absolute grandeur, if we would simply look longer.


[Quiet Night Think] fulfills the promise implied by the title, offering a deeply moving exploration of the writer's relationship with Li Bai's work, Chinese literature, and the ideas of home and nostalgia. The book also delves into so much more: it's a nuanced and multi-layered reflection on origins, poetic craft, and the creative process, explored through and alongside topics like heritage, nature, and motherhood.