Chasing a lost communion

Chasing a lost communion

It is hard to ignore poets humbly pursuing quality in their work focusing patiently on their craft that ignores the noise of trends emerging through awards and a glut of published books I am at home with Phinder because the language, intricate poetics, heritage, his own contextual reference, and poem quality matter to him profoundly. The sincerity of a such poet’s quest in him is unquestionably admirable.

When I first featured him in 2016, he wrote: “There are reasons for writing a poem; I convey through words, through form and the underpinning science of the art – information, possible ways of experiencing the world if you were to live behind my eyes and senses. I do this in hopes that we (you the reader and I) arrive at this place of solace and knowing; that there are deeper connections of grieving and mourning from the horrors of the past, that we can span across generations and oceans in a kind of stand-in for a lost communion – and as my Mataji so often said and loved to do with her grandchildren – to place a palm on a child’s head and say those words.”

That is Phinder: how inspiring!

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Chasing a lost communion
Inhabiting the in-between space of Kalidasa & Shakespeare

Phinder Dulai is the Surrey-based author of dream/arteries (Talon Books) and two previous books of poetry: Ragas from the Periphery (Arsenal Pulp Press, 1995) and Basmati Brown (Nightwood Editions, 2000). Phinder toured dream /arteries extensively across Canada and USA. He read from dream / arteries at the Asian American Writers Workshop in New York City in 2015. His work has appeared in Canadian Literature, Cue Books Anthology. Ankur, Matrix, Memewar Magazine, Rungh, the Capilano Review, Canadian Ethnic Studies, Toronto South Asian Review, subTerrain, and West Coast LINE. In 2017, he was the co-creator of Canada's first writing residency for BIPOC writers called Centering Ourselves at the Banff Centre for the Arts. Currently serves as the Poetry Editor for Canadian Literature Journal. He lives in Surrey, BC.

About the poem:

The Grove was inspired by a greenspace near me that abuts a strip mall. I was interested in the attempt at gentrification of the area while its clientele still remained the same. A patch in the Grove is a gathering of Douglas fir trees. Unfortunately, during the night, it is used as a private space to do illicit activities like shoot-up drugs and such.

Q

I was blown away by your collection, dream/arteries highlighting the plight of Indian migrants to Canada. “A hundred years ago (1914), the Japanese steamship Komagata Maru set sail for Canada with 376 Sikh, Muslim, and Hindu migrants travelling from Punjab, India.” How they were cruelly crushed makes a compelling story everyone should find out to understand the cruel aspects of migration. How did you stumble upon the idea? What was the decision process regarding choices on tones, format, linguistic style, and poetic challenges?

A

I had written A Letter to the Maru more than 27 years ago. During that time, I stumbled on a description of the Komagata Maru as it was previously named the SS Stubbenhuk and then the SS Sicilia and made trips across the Atlantic. I wanted to find out what the ship was carrying for cargo. I discovered it was European migrants escaping Old World trauma 20 years before the Komagata Maru incident. In terms of tone, format and linguistic style. I decided early on that I wanted to research the various methods of surveillance communication and use that in the body of the section on the KM. I utilize parody, imitation and a free verse form to communicate the various imagined points of reality the KM and Punjabi community might be in during the trauma of the KM. My only challenge was to complete my research and have the time to complete the book.

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Chasing a lost communion
Creating poetic magic that is partly confessional, partly observational
Q

How conscious were you of your previous collection of poems? Please tell us your working process from them to dream/arteries? What is the evolution here of a poet in you?

A

Dream / arteries was a significant step away from the confessional, lyric and social realist form I had taken in my previous two books. For one, I was working through a body of research that inspired me and drove me to document and write about what I was learning through verse. I used a completely new approach to writing the poetry. Then again, all three books are distinct from each other because I like to experiment with language to create verse.

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Chasing a lost communion
A Roll of the Dice that hits home every time
Q

What is still engaging Phinder Dulai, and what is he working on at present?

A

I consider writing an emancipatory act. So, life and what I read inspire me. I am moving to a more communal voice to write poems that resonate within the Punjabi community here. Writing is a kind of attending to a wound that continues to bleed. I think community trauma is a place where the writer can find hope and inspiration.

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Chasing a lost communion
Perched on the literary bridge for hyphenated identities

Yogesh Patel MBE runs Skylark Publications UK as well as the non-profit Word Masala project to promote South Asian diaspora literature. Also honoured with the Freedom of the City of London, he is a recipient of many awards and has read his work at important venues like the House of Lords and the National Poetry Library. His work has recently appeared at The Royal Society of Literature and Stanford University and the Writers Mosaic of The Royal Literary Fund. Published in numerous journals and anthologies; and with films and LPs under his belt, his collection of poems, The Rapids, is just published by The London Magazine. By profession, he is a qualified optometrist and an accountant.

*In this regular series for ‘iGlobal’, he profiles Global Indian poets from around the world.

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