When Renée Saklikar was aged 23, her aunt and uncle were murdered aboard Air India Flight 182. Among the many viewpoints encased in her debut collection, children of air India (Nightwood 2013), she examines why most Canadians still feel more strongly about the 9/11 terrorism attacks that killed New Yorkers rather than the Air India disaster, on June 23, 1985, that killed 329 people, mostly Canadians, making it Canada's worst mass murder. Saklikar's elegiac sequences explore private loss and public trauma, blending fiction and poetry, after a 20-year investigation culminated in a high-profile trial that ended with the accused being acquitted, adding to the pain. The title of her debut collection is uncapitalized and presented as children of air india: un/authorized exhibita and interjections. It won the Canadian Authors Award for best book of Canadian poetry to be published in English and was a finalist for the B.C. Book prize Dorothy Livesay award.
Ever a go-getter, Renée Sarojini Saklikar was named the first Poet Laureate of Surrey in 2015 having also vaulted into the administrative hierarchy of the Writers Union after one book and having co-written an opera on the Air India tragedy as a Canada-Ireland collaboration. In the same year, she co-edited a new anthology with Wayde Compton, The Revolving City: 51 Poems and the Stories Behind Them (Anvil Press) that includes poetry performed during Lunch Poems at SFU, a poetry reading series that she helped to establish. In late October she was featured on the cover of WE, the West Ender , for the opera project, Air India [Redacted], November 6-11, 2015, at SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts.
Renée Sarojini Saklikar was born in India but moved to Canada at a young age. A graduate of SFU Writers Studio, she is the wife of former provincial NDP leader Adrian Dix and the daughter of Rev. Vasant Saklikar, deceased, a former B.C. School Trustee and United Church Minister. Portions of her life-long poem chronicle called thecanadaproject have been published in various publications such as Ryga: A Journal of Provocations, Georgia Straight, The Vancouver Review, and Prism International.
children of air india: un/authorized exhibita and interjections.(Nightwood 2013) $18.95 978-0-88971-287-4
The Revolving City: 51 Poems and the Stories Behind Them (Anvil Press), co-edited with Wayde Compton. $18 978-1-77214-032-3
[BCBW 2015] "Air India"
children of air india (Nightwood $18.95)
For Renée Sarojini Saklikar, wife of NDP leader Adrian Dix, the loss of a provincial election in May was far from being the worst thing that could happen to her family. In 1985, at age 23, she learned her aunt and uncle had been murdered aboard Air India Flight 182. It was the worst mass murder in Canadian history. Relatives from B.C. flew to the tiny community of Ahista, located on the coast of Ireland, between Durrus and Kilcrohane, on the Sheep’s Head peninsula, where they threw wreaths into the sea. Bodies of only half of the 329 victims were recovered. Renée Sarojini Saklikar’s children of air India (Nightwood $18.95) is the literary equivalent of tossing wreaths into the sea. After a 20-year investigation culminated in a high-profile trial that ended with the accused being acquitted, she has blended elegiac sequences that explore private loss and public trauma. The Air India tragedy continues to get short shrift in the public imagination given that most Canadians feel more strongly about the 9/11 attacks that killed New Yorkers. Meanwhile the County Cork Council has purchased that wreath-tossing site on the Sheep’s Head peninsula and built a memorial garden—with a sundial that marks the exact minute of the tragedy. Irish locals and Indo-Canadian relatives gather there, annually, in June, to commemorate the dead. Blending poetry and prose, Saklikar has made her own monument around which readers can gather, searching for dignity and meaning. Inconspicuously erected, children of Air India is a Canadian literary sundial.
Saklikar wins CAA Poetry Prize
Press Release (2014)
Nightwood Editions is pleased to announce Renée Sarojini Saklikar’s book children of air india: un/authorized exhibits and interjections ($18.95) won the 2014 Canadian Authors Association Award for Poetry, which recognizes the best full-length English-language book of poems for adults by a Canadian writer. The CAA Award for Poetry winner receives $2000 and a silver medal. In the long-held tradition of writers honouring writers, the Canadian Authors Association announced the winners of its 2014 Literary Awards at a gala reception in Orillia, Ontario on Saturday, June 21.
Renée Sarojini Saklikar was 23 years old when her aunt and uncle were murdered on June 23, 1985, in the bombing of Air India Flight 182. In her first book of poems, children of air india: un/authorized exhibits and interjections, Saklikar presents a powerful and deeply personal collection. These poems offer a fresh perspective on a heartbreaking chapter in Canada’s history—the bombing of Air India Flight 182, which killed all 329 passengers and crew, including 82 children under the age of 13.
Saklikar breaks new ground in her approach to the Canada/Air India saga. The collection is animated by a proposition: that personal and shared violence produces continuing sonar, an echolocation that finds us, even when we choose to be unaware or indifferent. These poignant poems invite us to help bear witness to an aviation disaster that continues to resonate around the world, decades after the original event.
Renée Sarojini Saklikar, whose work includes poetry and non-fiction, also writes thecanadaproject, a life-long poem chronicle about her life from India to Canada, from coast to coast. Work from thecanadaproject appears in literary publications including The Georgia Straight, The Vancouver Review, PRISM international, Poetry is Dead, SubTerrain, Ricepaper, CV2, Ryga: a journal of provocations, Geist and Arc Poetry Magazine and in the recent anthologies, Alive at the Center: Contemporary Poems from the Pacific Northwest and Force Field: 77 Women Poets of British Columbia.
Introduced in 1975, the Canadian Authors Association Literary Awards honour Canadian writers who achieve excellence without sacrificing popular appeal in the categories of fiction, Canadian history and the poetry. Joseph Boyden was awarded the CAA Fiction Award for The Orenda (Penguin Group Canada). Charlotte Gray was named the recipient of the Lela Common Award for Canadian History for The Massey Murder: A maid, her master, and the trial that shocked a country (HarperCollins Canada). Grace O'Connell won the Emerging Writer Award for a promising writer under 30; her achievements include the novel Magnified World (Knopf Canada). The CAA Award for Poetry shortlist also included Catherine Graham, for Her Red Hair Rises with the Wings of Insects (Wolsak and Wynn Publishers), and Tom Wayman, for Winter Skin (Oolichan Books).
For more information about the Canadian Authors Association Literary Awards, refer to their website at www.canadianauthors.org.
First Poet Laureate for Surrey
Press Release (2015)
Renée Sarojini Saklikar has been selected as the inaugural Poet Laureate for Surrey. Renée is the author of children of air india, un/authorized exhibits and interjections which won the Canadian Authors Award for best book of Canadian poetry to be published in English and was a finalist for the B.C. Book prize Dorothy Livesay award. She is also the co-editor of the anthology The Revolving City: 51 Poems and the Stories Behind Them. This anthology includes poetry performed during Lunch Poems at SFU, a poetry reading series that Renée helped to establish.
“A strong foundation of arts and culture is the hallmark of a thriving City,” said Mayor Linda Hepner.” As Surrey’s first Poet Laureate, Renée Sarojini Saklikar will creatively engage and connect with our community and will be a strong advocate for literacy and the literary arts.”
Renée is one of three National Advocates for The Writer’s Union of Canada and a member of the League of Canadian Poets. Her poetry investigates, celebrates, and memorializes the poetry of place, particularly those stories integral to arrival, departure, settlement, and diaspora. Renée will work to create a legacy program of poetry-outreach that is multi-lingual and inter-cultural, in partnership with local organizations in Surrey. She is interested in furthering grass-roots connections with youth, senior, and community groups.
“We’re excited to welcome Renée as the Poet Laureate for Surrey,” said Meghan Savage, Information Services Librarian at Surrey Libraries and Poet Laureate Project Coordinator. “Renée demonstrates a strong passion and enthusiasm for connecting the people of Surrey through poetry.”