Mohan Gill, a published poet himself, has organized the George Mackie Library’s Poetry Night in Punjabi for eight years. (Grace Kennedy photo)

North Delta poetry night creates space for Punjabi writers

Organizer Mohan Gill said it was an opportunity for writers to share their story and creativity

On the third Tuesday of every month, the George Mackie Library is home to Punjabi litterateurs.

For two hours, a pair of Punjabi writers, poets or songwriters discuss their work and their writing. Each writer gets 45 minutes to tell the room full of readers how they were first inspired to write and read sections of their work.

Sometimes the writers bring tea or samosas for the audience to enjoy while they listen. Often there will be 30 people in the audience, and at times much more, as people stand against the walls or poke their heads in from the hall.

For Mohan Gill, the man behind the library’s Poetry Night in Punjabi, it’s the mark of success for what he felt was a much needed space for Punjabi writers.

“We don’t even know about writers,” he said. “Where they come from, how they come to be a good writer. Their history.”

“In those 45 minutes, they can tell their story: where they come from, how they started writing, who influenced them and why are they writing, why do they have to write. At the end they also share with us their creativity.”

Gill is a writer himself, having published a dozen books of Punjabi poetry and prose. He wrote a weekly satirical column in the Indo-Canadian Times for eight years and has been on the executive of many writing associations.

Yet how many readers know his story?

Gill fell in love with literature while growing up in the Punjab region of India. He started a library in his village, reading the books it held “not only once, but many times,” he said.

“Those acted as … fuel to my fire of creativity inside. From that, I started writing over there.”

He began seeing his poetry published in literary magazines in India and meeting with writers’ associations.

When he came to Canada in December 1977, that stopped. He found work at a sawmill in Prince George, living there for nine years, his literary life on hold.

“There was no literary atmosphere over there in Punjabi,” he said about Prince George. He dabbled, but didn’t focus on his writing until he felt financially stable.

“It’s in people, but they don’t know how to express it,” he said about the ability and desire to write. “And when they get [in] an atmosphere of creativity, then they also get inspired. They have that in them, but they didn’t know it was there.”

That is another key part of the Gill’s Poetry Night in Punjabi, which has been taking place in the library for the past eight years: the opportunity for writers to learn from and inspire each other.

“That’s why we try to give this platform for all of them,” Gill said. “First to know each other, get together, then to learn from each other.”

Poetry Night in Punjabi features two different Punjabi writers from the Lower Mainland on the third Tuesday of every month. Occasionally, if a writer is visiting Metro Vancouver from another city, Gill will invite them to speak as well. Past attendees have included Burnaby playwright and novelist Sadhu Binning, short storyist and founder of the B.C. Punjabi Cultural Foundation Jarnail Singh Sekha, and of course, Gill himself.

The nights run between March and November, with the next event happening on Sept. 19 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. A mushaira (or poetry reading) wraps up the year on the third Saturday of December, where a number of writers get five minutes to read a portion of their work.

“There are some who are established writers, and there are some who are just starting writing,” Gill said. “But we include everybody with the same respect.”

“To get the writers together, somebody had to do something,” he added. “Why not me?”

Just Posted

Rockslide closes Coquihalla northbound

Highway 5 is closed in both directions according to DriveBC

UPDATE: Wind warning has ended for Metro Vancouver

More than 34,000 BC Hydro customers in the dark on Sunday morning in the Lower Mainland and Sunshine Coast

Downtown Mission: Ready to revitalize

With the bidding process underway, construction could start by mid-March

Guilty plea issued in case where man, 86, was assaulted and robbed

Hughie Stump pleads guilty to break-and-enter in relation to Abbotsford incident

WIND WARNING: Metro Vancouver expecting 100 km/h gusts Saturday night

Environment Canada issues warns of possibly dangerous conditions

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

Philadelphia Eagles headed to Super Bowl

After routing the Minnesota Vikings 38-7, they will face Tom Brady and the New England Patriots

Heavy snowfall closes Mount Washington on Vancouver Island

Road to ski resort deemed unsafe, vehicles buried under more than three feet of snow

VIDEO: Dramatic video shows return of rescued B.C. snowboarders

Two snowboarders were rescued near Rossland, B.C. on Sunday after being lost overnight.

Tom Brady leads Patriots back to Super Bowl, top Jaguars 24-20

New England to face winner of Sunday night’s game between Minnesota and Philadelphia on Feb. 4

Coquihalla drivers prepare for snow

Wintry conditions persist, with snow warnings for Coquihalla

Liberals quietly tap experts to write new paternity leave rules

Ideas include creating an entirely new leave benefit similar to one that exists in Quebec

Insurers say Canadian weather getting hotter, wetter and weirder

Average number of days with heavy rain or snow across Canada has been outside norm since spring 2013

Final phase of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy trials to kick off in B.C.

Doctors hope to get psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy legalized in Canada and the U.S. by 2021

Most Read