On Oct. 8, 2020, Queen’s undergraduate student Daniel Green was selected as the winner of The Journal’s 2020 Poetry Contest. Green spoke to The Journal’s Assistant Arts Editor, Alysha Mohamed, about his winning poem ‘She Must’.
What’s your year and program? Where are you from?
“My name is Daniel Green. I’m in third year and I’m studying English and I am from Toronto.”
When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
“When you look back on your childhood—I never wrote a lot as a little kid or anything—but you kind of look at tendencies like how imaginative I was, and I always tried to make comic books and stuff. So, I’ve been reflecting on that a lot lately as to how I became so obsessed with writing […]I wasn’t a huge writer or pleasure reader as a kid. It kind of came to me as I matured.
When I seriously started writing, was my grade 12 Writer’s Craft class where I wrote some poetry, and I wrote stories, and I just loved it. It’s just the best. It’s such a necessary expression that I didn’t realize I needed. I feel like if you’re an artistic, creative person and you’re not creating, you can be pretty miserable without even knowing it.”
Have you ever entered or won a poetry contest before? Has your writing been published before?
“When I was in high school […] I was published in a student poetry anthology called Inkslide and that was the first time I was published, and I thought ‘Woah, maybe I’m not so bad. I don’t know.’
First year was so overwhelming. I didn’t write that much in first year creatively, and once I decided I wanted to major in English, I was thinking I really wanted to start writing creatively again and get back to how much I loved it. So then, I sent a story to Carolyn Smart to get into her Creative Writing and Prose class, and once I was in that I realized ‘Woah, I’m not as good as I thought I was at all.’ It really helped me improve so drastically—reading other people’s writing and having them critique it in a serious setting.”
What inspired the poem? Did it come from real experience?
“It’s one of those things where poetry, as Wordsworth put it, is ‘emotion recollected in tranquility.’ It’s very much an emotion that I was feeling at the time. When I wrote this—I’m in a relationship that I’m very happy with right now—but this came, when I started writing it in early September, I went on a date with this girl and I was like […] I really, really like this person but I started to get nervous because relationships often don’t last forever. I was anxious about it and I was thinking, I just have to learn to let go. When I write in the second person and I write with this imperative tone, I was almost talking to myself, and just learning, it’s okay. Whatever happens, happens.”
You use a lot of natural imagery in ‘She Must’. Is this present in your other writing?
“I definitely like writing about nature […] In my other story, What the Stars Said, I talk a lot about nature but in a negative light with it being so cold and destructive, and the snow is piercing like a cobweb of frost on the speaker’s face. I really like feeling nature when I’m writing for sure.”
That’s interesting that you used [nature] in a negative light in your short story, but here it builds the romantic theme.
“I don’t know how much I should reveal. I don’t want to ruin the reader’s experience if they find out how personal it is, but let’s just say that yellow bench—it’s on Queen’s Campus—and those vines are in front of the yellow bench […] that whole stanza is very real. It’s all real, you know, it’s fiction and it’s not fiction. I think ‘she’ doesn’t even necessarily have to be a human being. We have to learn to let go of jobs, friends, experiences. You have to learn to let go in order to live a truly happy life. It’s very much a universal, symbolic metaphor that I’ve tried to create, but have done so using personal, emotional, romantic experience.”
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