Posts Tagged Surjeet Kalsey

Two important books: Manolis’s ‘Vernal Equinox’ and Fauzia Rafique’s ‘Skeena’

Manolis’s poetry collection ‘Vernal Equinox’ and Fauzia Rafique’s novel ‘Skeena’
By Sana’a Janua
April 9, 2011
Surrey Public Library
Newton Branch

I want to thank everyone for coming out today. For me it is a great day for many reasons. I am happy to see the shift of celebration from Vancouver to Surrey. Vancouver being the heart of culture has a lot of events happening that pertain to arts, culture, books, and other literary nuance. Surrey is popular for different stuff, mainly loud music on the streets, good bargains at Punjabi market, and lately, lots of police and street regulations. So, today as we celebrate two writers, and their books, in my opinion we are making a statement here. Surrey too holds what it takes to be the heart of culture. Somehow, I feel that it is my duty to be a part of it, and just seeing so many faces today, I feel confident in saying that everyone in this room is enabling this shift to take place.

The second reason that pleases me is that we are going to talk about two very important books today. The first one is ‘Vernal Equinox’ by Manolis published by Ekstasis Editions from Victoria, and with this, I will introduce our first speaker who has written the book that I hold in my hand. After working as an iron worker, train labourer, taxi driver, and stock broker in Canada to support his writing, Manolis now lives in White Rock where he spends his time writing, gardening, and traveling. He has written three novels, over ten collections of poetry, and has published short fiction and non fiction in Greek and in English. Toward the end of 2006 he founded Libros Libertad, an unorthodox and independent publishing company in Surrey BC with the goal of publishing literary books. Eduardo Bettencourt Pinto has said this about the poet and the poems:
‘Book of tenderness, Vernal Equinox is also the Adam’s apple mythology whirling in the eyes of the far away lover, the body’s appeal, desire and ardency, which are the unavoidable delight of carnal fire. Eloquent and sensitive, the poetry subjects crossing the pages of this book are vivid metaphors of beauty, poems of a lifetime. I mean: of a mature poet giving to the world a transcendent memory of the senses on its purest form.

This is the beauty of Manolis’s poetry. And, I’d share some of it with you before I invite him on stage. It might not be Manolis’s favorite poem, but I connected with it on the level that the above quote testifies to. It says:
Things Past
She stored his pictures in the album
dusted the chest carefully
hid her sighs inside an envelope
placed it on the side of her heart then
sat mesmerized by the memory of him
lingering in her mind as a crystal laughter
like when he used to take her hand saying: love you

So, I’d be honored today to call Manolis to the stage and share his insights on his poetry.
(Poetry readings by Manolis from Vernal Equinox, and from his translation of Yannis Ritsos’s poems.)

For our second book Skeena by Fauzia Rafique, I have a list of many strong speakers from both the academic and the literary world. This event will see us discussing Skeena from various eyes, each pair just as literary attuned and intellectually distinctive as the other. I am very interested in seeing how this event opens up and where it leads us to. So, before I begin to call upon my speakers for today, I want to set forth a few questions that we should always attend to when we are discussing literature like Skeena.

I want to know as a reader how such a book, that can be read as resistance literature, ethnic literature, political literature, minority literature, feminist literature, and even like a travelogue, should be treated? How do we shelf it? Do we call it, to remove the strain of literary canons, simply Canadian literature?

It gets complicated to know that a Pakistani immigrant woman writes this book. Pakistan, that arouses in the readers’ minds a distinct map, a different region, a different race, and most of all, her politics. So, does it become a Pakistani novel, when we have many writers from different races in Canada writing about places that are not Canadian, and yet, it is Canadian literature?

It is here that I want to also mention how in Pakistan, when Fauzia went in 2007 to publish this novel, the Literary Society of Lahore Press Club, who had insisted on holding the launch, backed out 24 hours before the launch after reading it. Academy of letters, Islamabad did not allow it to launch at their premises.

So, we have a history of reactions attached to Skeena. While Skeena continues to challenge, it does so with grace and perseverance. Fauzia’s book is going to challenge the norms that we comfortably attach to the literatures of Canada and Pakistan, and perhaps even the market of global literatures. I use the word literatures to emphasize the importance of heterogeneous quality of literature, because in doing so, I want us to remember the distinctions in literature. No two novels are alike, and the tradition of transformation and canons tells us that labeling is never easy. That a single novel Skeena, that is written in two languages Punjabi and English simultaneously, can be canonized into two different locales. That Skeena can belong in Canada, as much as in Pakistan. That it too can take the condition of the very woman who writes it, the condition of being here and there. English Skeena and Punjabi Skeena, the twins that were conceived together, but born at different times, are like the face of the earth, West and East, South and North. Here, i quote a reader of English edition of Skeena.

It is a simple novel, yet the control of vision with which it targets the literary nuance speaks to the condition of clarity. It is an issue-oriented book. The form is simple, the content is not. Here, we question the old question: does form follow function? Yes (for Skeena). The ‘function’ (of Skeena) is to stimulate our minds, and to bring us out of the comfort we attach with speaking about women’s issues in an Islamic state, and in the western state(s), and the book makes us do that by remaining simple and transparent ‘in form’.’ (From ‘Skeena Brings fever to the Mind’ by Rajkumri Fehmida)

As for the writer, Fauzia Rafique, I want to congratulate her for conceiving this novel that beautifully unites the world, and then separates it with dignity. I present to you, the novel ‘Skeena’.

Parveen Malik: Review of Skeena presented by Dr. Saif Khalid.
Surjeet Kalsey: ‘Skeena: SarhaddaN toN paar de aurat, a woman beyond borders’
Sadhu Binning: ‘Skeena’
Ajmer Rode: ‘Fauzia Rafiq da novel Skeena’
Fauzia Rafique: Reading from Skeena

Launch organized by Libros Libertad, uddari books and Sanjh Publications


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Punjabi Novel ‘Skeena’ Launch in Surrey BC, April 9/2011

You are invited to the Surrey launch of the two Punjabi editions of ‘Skeena’.
It is a powerful story of a Muslim Canadian woman that begins from a Punjabi village in Pakistan, moves to the city of Lahore, to Toronto in Ontario, and ends in Surrey, British Columbia.
Saturday, April 9
2-4 PM
Newton Branch, Surrey Public Library
13795 70 Avenue, Surrey BC V3W 0E1
(604) 598-7400
Download PDF Poster

Poetry Readings by Manolis
From ‘Yannis Ritsos – Poems’, and ‘Vernal Equinox’
Readings from ‘Skeena’ by Fauzia Rafique
Guest Speakers on ‘Skeena’
Sadhu Binning
Bhupinder Dhaliwal
Surjeet Kalsey
Dr. Saif Khalid
Shahzad Nazir Khan
Ajmer Rode
Discussion and Refreshments
Event Host
Sana’a Janjua

Gurumukhi edition of this novel is published by Uddari Books (Surrey 2011), and the Shahmukhi or the Perso-Arabic script edition by Sanjh Publications (Lahore 2007). The English edition of ‘Skeena’ (Libros Libertad, Surrey 2011) will also be available.
English Edition of ‘Skeena’
Punjabi (Gurumukhi) Edition of ‘Skeena’
Punjabi (Shahmukhi) Edition of ‘Skeena’

Sadhu Binning
Update: View Sadhu’s review of Skeena on YouTube and In Shahmukhi
Sadhu, a bilingual author, has lived in the Vancouver area since migrating to Canada in 1967. He has published more than fifteen books of poetry, fiction, plays, translations and research. His works have been included in more than thirty-five anthologies both in Punjabi and English. He edited a literary Punjabi monthly ‘Watno Dur’, and now co-edits a quarterly, ‘Watan’.
He is a founding member of Vancouver Sath, a theatre collective, Ankur and various other literary and cultural organizations. He sat on the BC Arts Board from 1993 to 1995. He is a central figure in the Punjabi arts community and was named one of the top 100 South Asians making a difference in BC.
Twenty years ago, he founded Punjabi Language Education Association and has been actively promoting Punjabi language in educational
institutions in BC.

Bhupinder Dhaliwal
Update: Bhupinder Jee was unable to attend.
Bhupinder is a Panjab-born actor, director and writer. He came to Canada in …
More to come…
He now lives in Surrey BC where he runs his real estate and mortgage business.

Sana’a Janjua
Sana’a hails from a Punjabi family and is damn proud of it. She is a cultural activist, a keen reader and a spirited individual.
She is studying to become a nurse these days. Her interest also lies in post-colonial, and subaltern studies. Her favorite writers are Fanon, Dorris Lessing, and Assia Djebar.
She is un-apologetically firm about minority rights in Pakistan and elsewhere.
She still wants to be an actor one day!

Surjeet Kalsey
Update: Surjeet’s review is published in Gurumukhi by Indo Canadian Times. View some of it on YouTube, and View Part 2
Read review in Punjabi Shahmukhi Perso-Arabic script
Surjeet Kalsey is an accomplished Punjabi Canadian author of poetry, short fiction and drama. In her writings, Surjeet explores the lives of Punjabi Canadian women and communities from aware ‘immigrant’ perspectives. She presented Punjabi literature to the mainstream audience for the first time in Canada during the seventies.
Surjeet began her career as a journalist news anchor for Punjabi Pradeshik Samachar on All India Radio in the Seventies in Chandigarh, and wrote poetry and short stories before coming to Canada in 1974 where she continued her passion for translation, journalism and broadcasting.
She translated 55 Punjabi poets into English, and published an anthology named – ‘Glimpses of Twentieth Century Punjabi Poetry An Anthology in English Translation’ (1994, Ajanta Press, Second edition by Tarlochan Publications, Chandigarh 2010).
As an Accreditied Court Interpreter and Certified Translator, she has completed several book length projects and her literary translations were considered by English audience as “accurate, faithful, and true to the original” (M. Bullock), and attempted to fill the gap between Punjabi poets and mainstream poets.
Surjeet has three poetry books in English ‘Foot Prints of Silence’, ‘Speaking To The Winds’ and ‘In This Solitude’ to her credit. ( She has published six books of poetry with ‘Naam Tiharey’ (Amritsar 2006) being the latest. In addition, she has published four collections of short fiction in Punjabi and English; has written and directed and staged seven plays; produced several articles and dissertations on history, literature and the status of women in Canada.
Surjeet is the Editor of the Gurumukhi edition of ‘Skeena’.

Dr. Saif Khalid
Update: View Dr. Saif on YouTube with an introduction by Sana Janjua
Dr. Khaled was born in the Pakistan city of Lyalpur in a middle class progressive family, and went on to study in Gujranwala, Bulgaria and Islamabad. He did his M.Sc. in Agricultural Sciences, and his PhD in Plant Pathology from Bulgaria in 1983.
From 1984 to 2002, he worked as a Researcher for Pakistan Agricultural Research Council in Islamabad, Pakistan. Since 2003, he has been working for the greenhouse and agricultural industry in Fraser Valley.
Dr. Saif Khaled has co-edited and co-authored a book with Award-wining author Ahmad Salim. The book is a biography of a Pakistani revolutionary, titled ‘Comrade Lal Khan’ (Urdu, Sanjh Publications, 2007).
Dr. Khalid loves to read books, watch films and participate in socio-political and cultural activities.
He is a leading member and organizer of Fraser Valley Peace Council (FVPC) and Committee of Progressive Pakistani Canadians (CPPC).

Shahzad Nazir Khan

Manolis was born in the small village Kolibari west of Chania on the Greek island of Crete in 1947. At a young age, his family moved to Athens where he was educated. After serving in the armed forces for a couple of years, he emigrated to Vancouver in 1973.
After working as an iron worker, train labourer, taxi driver, and stock broker in Canada, he now lives in White Rock where he spends his time writing, gardening, and traveling.
He has written three novels, over ten collections of poetry, and has published short fiction and non fiction in Greek and in English.
Toward the end of 2006 he founded Libros Libertad, an unorthodox and independent publishing company in Surrey BC with the goal of publishing literary books.
Manolis will present readings from his new collection of poetry ‘Vernal Equinox’ (Ekstasis Editions, 2011), and from his translated work of ‘Yannis Ritsos – Poems’ (Libros Libertad, 2010)

Fauzia Rafique
Update: View reading on YouTube
Fauzia is a South Asian Canadian writer of fiction and poetry. Her English and Punjabi writings have been published in Canada, Pakistan, and on the Web. Print titles include novel ‘Skeena’ (Punjabi, Lahore 2007) and anthology ‘Aurat Durbar’ (English, Toronto 1995).
She maintains sites and blogs on Punjabi literature and art, ‘honour-killings’, blasphemy laws, and the environment.
A selection of her English and Punjabi poetry ‘Passion-Fruit/Tahnget-Phal’ is due to come out in 2011.
Fauzia will read from the Punjabi edition of her novel ‘Skeena’.

Ajmer Rode
Update: View Ajmer on YouTube
Ajmer Rode is a Punjabi Canadian author living in Vancouver BC. A poet, playwright, translator and a cultural activist he writes both in English and Punjabi. Rode is one of the poets whose work has been added to Poetryinternationalweb with eight of his poems in English along with Punjabi translations. One of the poems ‘Kalli’ reflecting on the bonding between human and animal life in Punjab, received special attention from editors. The poem was also displayed with a painting Homecoming in a Surrey Arts Gallery exhibition (Jarnail Singh – Discovering the soul of Punjab) in 2004.
More to come…

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