Every Thursday, Ooligan Press invites a poet whose work is included in Alive at the Center, our forthcoming anthology of poetry from Pacific Northwest writers, to blog for us. This week, we are pleased to feature Renée Sarojini Saklikar, a poet Vancouver, B.C. Please enjoy her post.

These Layers That Now Surround Us

Where begins the poem? Inside. Outside.

Growing up on this West Coast, coming from the prairies, born “over there” (Poona/Pune, India), where Empire, too, separated inside, from outside, I did not always think about layers.

Only when writing thecanadaproject, did layers present as subjects, they who are un/spoken.

So, too, the more I looked at objects, they emanated an ecology of included/excluded that demanded manifestation. Such signs would speak to me of time marked as year, month, day.

Each marker carried inside its shell, the stories of other people. The more I listened to other people,

the more the edges of the line mattered.

My poem in Alive at the Center, entitled, “the next growing season,” is such an object:

layering into story—conditions ongoing:

rain, cherry blossoms, a river.


March 09, 2005: Diary entry: these notes written while the radio plays a CBC news story: in Maple Ridge, outside a gas service station, a young man.

He was run down by a car. Pebble encrusted body.


This writing in this journal.

Gift from a friend. She and I never see each other.

We are estranged.


March 07, 2007Diary entry: Trans-Canada Highway, Abbotsford, B.C

Amarjit Kaur Bal, 52 *  Sarbjit (Sarabjit) Kaur Sidhu, 30 31 * Sukhwinder Kaur Punia,46


March, 2010:  Diary entry: I am with my husband. We are in Abbotsford, in the rain. We are outside the municipal buildings. We stand on cobblestone, new bricks, made to look worn. In front of us, a make-shift stage overhung with blue tarpaulin. Under the tarp, a microphone crackles in the wet—

men and women speak.

Of the dead. Of workers in the fields.


Un/authorized interjection: don’t you know how to say it in Punjabi? Punjabi bolo?

Intercession: 18 Coroner recommendations        not acted upon

Intercession: 33 charges laid by               not prosecuted              the Crown

Found material: Eat local. Eat Organic. Support your local farmer.


Date Unknown: (memory): Awake in bed listening to The Early Edition, CBC Radio. The host (cue male voice) and his assistant (cue female voice) read mail written in response to their programming.

About frustration. About anger. A listener.

About the way news announcers mispronounce English names, such as Abbotsford and really, shouldn’t the CBC know better.

(cue end of segment): female voice: [redacted].

Object: a journal.

(cue female voice): The words of a friend, read on the radio: Abbotsford is a very English name, the most English of names.


When next seen: my friend,

my friend.

words lie

between us.


Meditation:  “We want our population to remain a white people; we want no interference with our labouring classes by a cheap yellow, brown, or black exodus from any part of Asia; we want our agricultural, our mining, our fishing, our lumbering and all our industries to be in the hands of white people.” (Source: The Vancouver Sun, 1914) cited in Patricia E Roy, A White Man’s Province, UBC Press, Vancouver, 1989


Posit: that the way of Empire, in its clubs, is to separate. As in layers. Where ends the poem? Where comes as an end. Inside. Outside.

we never speak of it.


These edges: “We found conflicting sources on how old she was. Please confirm. [From R.Saklikar: Thank you for the prompt. The verdict at the Coroner’s Inquest – Province of British Columbia, Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, which I obtained online, states her age as 31 as indicted by my change.  The other ages appear to be correct per the Verdict.] [I thought it might be of interest to the editors: the poem was written after I attended a ceremony for these women; I did not research the sources until later, when editing the poem; somehow that background context is important, I think, to how the poem is crafted. It arises out of lived experience, not a perusal of the official record.]”


Dedication: to the memory of Grant De Patie. To the memory of Amarjit Kaur Bal. To the memory of Sarbjit (Sarabjit) Kaur Sidhu. To the memory of Sukhvinder Kaur Punia.

Renée Sarojini Saklikar writes thecanadaproject, a life-long poem chronicle (

Work from thecanadaproject appears in literary journals, newspapers, and anthologies.

Renée is at work on a sequence of elegies, about Canada and the bombing of Air India Flight 182.

Renée’s poem, “the next growing season: a glossary,” came to fruition at a ceremony for three female farm workers, killed on the job. The research came later, as Renée states, “at the moment of form’s arrival for the making of the poem. Somehow that background context was important; the word arose out of lived experience, not a reading of the official record.”

This poem will be featured in the complete Alive at the Center anthology as well as the Vancouver edition. Both books are currently available from your favorite local bookshop or online retailer. Below is a recording of Renee reading this poem.

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