Surrey’s Poet Laureate: This is a ‘yes’ place

On the eve of a writing event in Cloverdale, Renée Saklikar says she's fallen for the city's creative vibe and sense of openness

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As writing assignments go, it’s got potential.

Take teens and seniors, bring them together for a unique writing experience designed to dig up rich stories about their city, and publish the results as a legacy for themselves, and all of Surrey.

On Sept. 26, Renée Saklikar, the city’s first-ever poet laureate, is coming to the Cloverdale Library for Your Story, Your Legacy: Teens and Seniors Write Surrey.

http://webpapersadmin.bcnewsgroup.com/portals/uploads/cloverdale/.DIR288/ReporterLogo1996-2016.jpgParticipants will be given writing prompts, with the teens writing about their best – or worst – day in Surrey, and the older participants addressing the topic: I remember when.

“Something magic comes when you bring teenagers and people over 60 together, they have such different experiences,” Saklikar says, adding Cloverdale ought to provide fertile ground for the telling – and sharing – of stories between the generations.

“I get so much from ‘I remember when’ – so much has changed – particularly about things that are no longer there: buildings, streets, homes, farms,” she says.

With that in mind, Saklikar will be facilitating an upcoming Write Surrey event at Stewart Farm, and another at Progressive Inter-cultural Community Services Society (PICS) for Punjabi-speaking seniors.

Since her induction in October 2015, Saklikar has been reaching out through pose and poetry, encouraging the written word through various means, from reading poetry into the official city record at a council meeting to sitting in on a teen poetry blast.

“This has been transformative,” she said during a telephone interview with the Reporter, on a busy day that saw her meeting with educators who work at Surrey’s pre-trial centre, and then back to SFU’s Surrey Centre campus, where she teaches creative writing.

While not a resident of Surrey – born in India, she grew up in New Westminster and resides in East Van – Saklikar has discovered something she hadn’t expected about Surrey.

“This is a ‘Yes’ place,” she says. “It’s not a ‘no’ place, and I’m thriving on it.”

There is an openness to engage in Surrey and a welcoming of all aspects of Surrey life, she says.

“There are a lot of headlines out there,” she says. “I’m learning that there is so much more. It’s a lot more layered and complex.”

Saklikar was selected by a committee of partner organizations that support the work of Surrey Libraries, each with their own deep roots within the city.

Her tasks include carving out a legacy project, of which the Cloverdale session is part, for the citizens of Surrey that will outlast her term, ending November 2017.

Like the city she serves, the award-winning poet is a passionate and engaged writer who is eager to bring others into the circle, offering poetry readings and writing prompts across the city, and provides manuscript consultations to writers – free, one-on-one consultations (Note: Consults for September, October and November are now full.)

“She’s really great,” says Carmen Merrells, youth services librarian with Surrey Libraries, which is hosting the Cloverdale Library event. “She’s got so much enthusiasm.”

The poet met with Surrey Libraries staff to brainstorm programming ideas. One of the library’s mandates is to bring the community together.

“We talked about what we could do to get teens and

seniors together,” Merrells said. “Why not challenge ourselves, right?”

Teens and Seniors Write Surrey at the Cloverdale Library runs from 1-3:30 p.m. Monday Sept. 26, a non-instructional day.

Saklikar hopes to get six to eight participants in each age group. “I think just the act of doing it will be very powerful,” she says.

It’s open to anyone who likes writing, but note space is limited. Register at the information desk (the branch is located at 5642 176A Street) or call 604-598-7327.

Follow the Cloverdale Reporter on Twitter and Facebook. View our print edition online.

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