‘Surrey Stories Connect’ book a legacy project for the city’s first poet laureate

New anthology created with stories told by seniors, teens and museum volunteers

Surrey’s first poet laureate is proud of the book she helped publish as a “legacy” project for her work in Surrey.

Renée Sarojini Saklikar conceived the idea to create “Surrey Stories Connect: Teens &Seniors Write Surrey,” which she edited with the help of Meghan Savage of Surrey Libraries.

The 112-page anthology tells the lived experiences of Surrey residents from the Cloverdale and Strawberry Hills areas of the city, as well as volunteers at Historic Stewart Farm in South Surrey.

Stories published in the book were told during writing workshops conducted by Saklikar, who was named Surrey’s inaugural poet laureate in the fall of 2015.

She calls the book a “time capsule, a snapshot of Surrey in the fall of 2016,” when the workshops took place.

“I’m delighted with it, and I think it’s quite a remarkable little book,” Saklikar told the Now-Leader.

Free copies of the softcover book will be given out during a book-launch event on Friday, May 12, at City Centre Library, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Funding to create and publish the book ($5,000) came from Surrey’s Cultural Grants program, as a “legacy project” for Saklikar’s work as Surrey Poet Laureate, a position that has been extended for her until the fall of 2018.

“I’m hoping that whoever succeeds me, I’m really hoping this (book) will serve as a model for their work,” Saklikar said. “I don’t think there’s anything quite like this in the Surrey repertoire of books.”

For the book, Saklikar held workshops at Cloverdale Library, at the Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society (PICS) care facility for seniors, and also at Historic Stewart Farm.

Some of the stories find seniors responding to those told by teens, and also the other way around.

In particular, Saklikar was moved by stories told by South Asian seniors – of them working on berry farms, in sawmills – and how teens responded to them.

“I think those are the stories that really stand out, when you get that intercultural response – very thoughtful, very poignant, very lovely,” she noted.

“I’m hoping people will dip in and out of the book, put it in there backpack, put it in their purse, keep it for a lunch break, with a cup of tea or whatever, and just listen to the voices in the stories, because they are quite remarkable,” Saklikar added.

Friday’s book-launch event will include author readings and an open-mic session. Call 604-598-7426 to reserve a seat, or visit Surreylibraries.ca for more details.

tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com