(c)copyright by Stephen Gill. The article can be
reproduced or quoted without permission if the
due credit is given, mentioning the source and
the name of the author.
*appeared in several publications
POETRY IS ALIVE IN
It started with my search for bananas. Usually, I eat two to six bananas every day. For two days since my arrival, I had not taken any. I had a craving for them but there were no grocery stores around the hotel. I wanted to see also the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library, where I was going to give my poetry performance the following evening, on the 24th of March, particularly to see if there were promotional posters for my presentation.
At the hotel, a receptionist, apparently of Chinese origin, told me to go to
the next block which was
I had been sponsored by the Canada Council to present
my poetry in
The library is a multi-storeyed complex with a modern
book store, souvenir shop and several food parlours where visitors, even on Sunday,
enjoyed reading, talking and discussing over snacks and tea/coffee. Several
publications, which announced day-to-day musical concerts, art exhibitions,
poetry readings, talks and such happenings in the city, were displayed for free
pick-up. In one of those listings I was surprised to read an invitation
by the management of a new bar to poets for conversations and readings in a
friendly atmosphere. Where else one can read such announcements in
As is my habit when I visit a new library, I went to a computer inside the building to check if my books were available-- two titles were listed in the catalogue. I made up my mind to persuade the librarian, or whoever would introduce me, to purchase the rest of my titles. After all, sharing and promotion for further sharing is the purpose of such visits.
The following evening, I was introduced to the audience by Janice Douglas, Director of Community Relations. A lively discussion about my art of writing, message and global peace shaped an exciting part of my presentation. Janice Douglas mentioned Sai Baba for the work he was doing to promote love, peace and tolerance. I added that the world needs several Sai Babas to stop the blood that is shed to appease the false gods of the fanatic beliefs of terrorists.
Among the audience were present Dr. Darshan Gill and Sadhu Binings, well-known Panjabi poets
who also write in English and edit Panjabi
publications. Also present was Dr. Shukrieh Ruth Merlet, a Lebanese-born writer, translator and librarian
with a long list of impressive achievements. She had recently been honoured
with a doctorate by the
I relished every minute of the performance of my poetry about love and social concerns. The performance was an experience that will remain alive in the museum of my mind. And the sunshine of the warm ovation will continue sprinkling the fragrance of her smile over the nights of my hope.
On my way back to the hotel, I found a corner
store. The following morning, I was booked for
At the hotel cafeteria in the early morning, I heard a Japanese-looking waiter, discussing a play with a female guest. When she left, we talked about haiku. He told me that he was contacting publishers for two collections of his poems. While I was leaving the cafeteria, I heard a middle-aged man commenting on The English Patient by Michael Ondatjee to the owner at the cash counter. When I told him that I knew the poet, he said that he would like to hear Michael when he reads his prose, not poetry. On the last day, I presented a copy of The Flowers of Thirst, a collection of my poems, to the waiter which he accepted with deep admiration.
After having tea and two bananas, I reached
Normally, I do not take anything before a talk or reading, except tea and one or two bananas if I am very hungry. The fast starts from the morning and ends after my presentation. That morning, due to my allergy, I craved something to eat. I went into the cafeteria where I picked up tea and a muffin and carried them on a tray to a corner seat. Feeling better, I began to scribble about my experiences of the night before. Students and a few other persons, who looked like professors, once in a while threw their glances at me.
I went to the library and checked a computer to find my titles. The library had two prose titles, but no collection of my poems. I went to the librarian-- she was not there. I left a note with a request to order my books if possible.
The reading went very well. The audience, mostly students, were polite and quiet. Some of the questions they asked were really intelligent. One question that came up in both the gatherings was the reasons behind my writing for love and peace.
I told them that the key to the answer was perhaps in the locker of my childhood when I saw Hindus and Moslems killing one another for the God whom noone has seen. I have heard the cries of the innocents and seen dead bodies rotting on the street. Those scenes of senselessness---the scenes of the cruelty that seeks oasis in human blood--- are hidden in the every cave of my every breath.
I have been reading Event, a magazine of unique individuality, for years. It was an opportunity to have a few minutes with Bonnie Bauder, its assistant editor. She was energetic, kind, and friendly. We talked about the obstacles in the way of married writers. We shared the view that writers are already married--- married to their art. At the same time, they have responsibilities towards their children to make them grow into good citizens. In order to be more attentive to writing, they can cut down the time they spend on watching tv and socializing. To be in touch with people, they can use the telephone-- an excellent way to reduce boredom as well. She encouraged me to submit poems to be considered for her publication.
I had to
wait outside because it was raining. To
take advantage of the situation, I phoned Dr. Shukrieh
Ruth Merlet. She suggested that I see Mr. Aziz Khaki before I leave the city. She also suggested to
me to meet Mr. Ned Bejjany, a Lebanese writer who
publishes Mawaheb, meaning talent, a
literary magazine in English, French and Arabic from
In the evening, I spent some time with Mr. Aziz Khaki at his office, exchanging our thinking about how
to bring about global peace. I brought his attention to the activities of
fanatics and terrorists. I also brought his attention to the blasphemy law of
Mr. Khaki, a man of engaging personality, knew
how to express himself. He is the president of The Committee for Racial
Justice, and edits two newsletters, titled Reaching Out, and Interfaith
Voice. He is a Moslem from
Based on my stay of three nights, I may say that