Books

How Sanita Fejzić's poem for her son became a story about acceptance & celebrating different kinds of families

The CBC Poetry Prize finalist and author of (M)other talks about the book based on her shortlisted poem.
(M)other is a poem by Sanita Fejzić. (National Arts Centre)

Sanita Fejzić is a Bosnian-Canadian poet, novelist, essayist and playwright. In 2018, she made the 2018 CBC Poetry Prize shortlist for (M)other. Last year, she made the 2019 CBC Nonfiction Prize longlist for Say My Name, Say My Name Right.

Fejzić spoke to CBC Books about how her new book was adapted from her shortlisted poem.

The 2020 CBC Poetry Prize is accepting entries until May 31, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. ET. You can find out more and submit here.

A poem is born

"I wrote this poem two years ago in a moment of reflection, a spontaneous sitting down and pouring on the page. I was completely, unconsciously in the moment, taking stock of everything that we'd been through since his birth. It came out as a purging, but at the same time like a love note. You're with the child all the time, raising him or her. I was expressing that love, that miracle of his birth, completely non-religiously. Two women were having a child, which is a historically recent possibility, and he was born on Christmas Day. He has no father, and that's the joke.

I was completely, unconsciously in the moment, taking stock of everything that we'd been through since his birth.

"Once I had written it, there was practically no editing. Usually when you write a poem you write it, let it sit, return to it, write it some more. It's a process. This one felt fantastic because it felt fully cooked right away. I wrote it in maybe 10 or 15 minutes and that was it. It doesn't happen very often."

Creating a new normal

"The book is really not about homophobia. We never experienced any kind of hate or anger directed toward us. In Canada, especially in popular media, we often talk about homophobia, but we rarely talk about something more insidious, harder to see at the surface, and that's heteronormativity. It's a very background assumption that it has to be a dad and a mom.

What I love about this book is that it creates a new norm. ​​​

"So many friends who are heterosexual women who've chosen to have their own babies and are faced with pretty much the same problem as us, people looking for a father for them. It's beyond queer issues. What I love about this book is that it creates a new norm and that's super important because it's not just an ode of love for queer parents." 

Sharing with others

"I felt that it was important to publish it and send it to the CBC because there's a catharsis moment when you realize that it doesn't have to be a burden to always be in this position of having to educate others. I wanted it to be read and I wanted it to be read by as many people as possible, not just for the LGBTQ community that's making families and having that celebration, that moment our voices are heard, but also for our heterosexual allies and those who might not be allies (yet). So they could understand what it's like to be at the receiving end of this constant delegitimization.

"My hope also is that by constantly speaking truthfully, it shows that it is powerful ⁠— not just an esthetic move, but also an ethical, political move."

Sanita Fejzić's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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