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Poetry gives us something to come home to”

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Local poet, Renée Saklikar has both a passion and a talent for sharing and connecting with others. Through the power of language, she evokes emotion from her audience and draws people in to build community. Even as she describes (unrehearsed) her experiences and ambitions as an artist, it’s impossible not to connect with her and her inspired, lyrical words.

Born in India, Saklikar came to Canada as a small child. Although she now calls British Columbia home, she lived in many Canadian provinces before moving west. “I did a lot of my growing up in Quebec and Saskatchewan,” she says.

Her experiences moving across Canada have informed a great deal of her work. Saklikar describes thecanadaproject, as a life-long poem chronicle, a compilation of many of her poems, rooted in the geography, histories and cultures she’s experienced traveling across the country.

Ultimately though, Saklikar says her poetry is about sounds. “It’s about the experience of breath, the body and language.” While she admits that her experiences in the world often seep into her work, more often than not, she says her work’s inspiration is “as basic as the love of some sound that I hear”.

That basic, linguistic quality is what makes Saklikar’s work so easy to connect to. She explains, saying “people are interested in language; they’re interested in words. And poetry is so much about that, along with image, rhythm and sound. As human beings we crave that.” Indeed, Saklikar believes that “in an increasingly fractured and disconnected world, poetry gives us something to come home to”.

Listening to her describe her passion, connecting with others through her art, it’s hard to believe the poetic life wasn’t always easy or natural for Saklikar. Not long ago, Saklikar was wielding a successful career as an entrepreneur. After practicing as a lawyer, and subsequently working at a senior level in the BC Public Service, Saklikar started her own consulting business. She describes her life with two cell phones, traveling across the province to meet with clients, and reflects, “it was a wonderful opportunity with lots of success, but some part of me longed for more”.

It was the sudden death of her father that led Saklikar to re-evaluate her career path. In the wake of such loss, and having always been a “closet poet”, Saklikar found the courage to pursue her passion. She made the choice to become a poet, enrolled in The Writer’s Studio at SFU Continuing Studies, and never looked back. While it’s clear that Saklikar is now doing what she loves, she’s quick to warn that the writing life is not an easy one. “You have to commit” she says, “you’ve got to make it happen, and you have to value your community”.

One of the many places Saklikar has found and helped build the community she so values is at lunch poems. Inspired by American poet, Frank Ohara, lunch poems @sfu has become a favourite of Saklikar’s. She describes the monthly event as a chance for poets and non-poets alike to share, ask questions, and take a break from their busy days to enjoy poetry.  The sense of community she finds at these mid-day poetry readings is nothing less than “refreshing, warm and wonderful”.

Since embarking on her journey as a poet, Saklikar has shared her work with a wide range of people, at a variety of venues. Whether her words are about loss, remembrance, or a riff off of a Texas blues song, Saklikar’s poetry is providing a source of connection for the individuals and communities she encounters.

In a city where more and more people are feeling isolated and out of place in their own neighbourhoods, Renée Saklikar is giving people something to come home to.

Author Jackie Pichette is the Research and Communications Officer at SFU Public Square

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