Poetry contest winner Emily Clare talks 'Allies'

Queen’s student discusses poetry as protest

Emily Clare’s poem “Allies” was selected as the winner of the Winter 2021 Poetry Contest.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

“There is no faith within words of abhorrence,” writes Emily Clare, ArtSci ’21, winner of The Journal’s Winter 2021 poetry contest in her piece titled “Allies.”

“I’ve been writing poetry and song since I was just a little girl. I’ve been doing it my whole life just as a way to process my thoughts and feelings,” Clare told The Journal.  

While Clare would like to pursue writing as a career, “Allies” is the first creative work of hers to be published.

“Anyone who’s reading it can see it’s very politically charged,” she said.

The poem opens with: “The taste of raspberries, / On their lips, / From the red hand painted over their mouths, / The same hue as the coats of the men who have taken the land.”

“[The red hand] is actually inspired by the missing and murdered Indigenous women,” Clare said.

The red hand painted over the mouth symbolizes the voices of Indigenous women and girls that have been silenced and who are disappearing at disproportionate rates, an issue long ignored by the Canadian government and police.

“[My poem] starts with a very strong metaphor and very strong imagery but it’s kind of about me being an ally to everyone in this day and age who’s feeling oppressed. It was for my friends and my loved ones and those people who are still fighting the good fight,” Clare said.

“I was hoping I could do it in a way that’s respectful and honorable to people who feel like maybe their voices aren’t being heard.”

“Allies” was broadly inspired by Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women, Black Lives Matter, Stop Asian Hate, and the rampant racism and sexism that still goes on in Canada. More personally, the poem originated after Clare’s Métis friend was called a racial slur.

Seeing how that experience affected her friend was upsetting for Clare. She said she realized “just how important it is to stand up and say, ‘I am an ally’ and just how much those words can mean to someone else.”

Although Clare didn’t set out to write a protest poem, she welcomes the label.

“It could definitely be a protest poem because I feel there’s an equal balance of identifying and acknowledging, and then at the very end I tie it up and say we are still here, we’re still fighting.”

“I’m inspired everyday by the people who do take this artform and make it into something even bigger.”

For Clare, there’s no better way of dealing with hardships than to write about it. “In a world where there’s power dynamics, and there’s almost eight billion people on this Earth, it’s very important to keep our thoughts alive […] That’s one way to feel powerful—when we take our thoughts and make them into art.”

Corrections

This article has been updated with the correct term for the anti-Asian racism movement, which is called Stop Asian Hate.

The Journal regrets the error.

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