thecanadaproject, seven years in…

7 Years…

600+ posts…

Over 15,000 visitors to the site…

thecanadaproject is now on the verge of a new decade. But first, a recap:

2019 was my testing year. I faced some personal and professional challenges and met them as best I could.

My mantra was “do less, be more” and what surprised me was how much I fretted about “not doing enough” even though throughout the year,  I was busy teaching at Simon Fraser University and Vancouver Community College and curating the popular poetry reading series, Lunch Poems at SFU. And what I re-learned was to persist…and to continue to be mindfully grateful for family and friends. Sometimes, as a creative, I wonder if we take on a mindset of “I have to make this happen on my own,” which is true to a certain extent—and yet, having folks at your back helps. A lot. 

Here are a few highlights from my 2019 Testing Year:

Spring 2019

Turning Point Ensemble Words and Music
Bee Studies: A Collaboration with Turning Point Ensemble

March 9 and 10, “Bee Studies”, a music and words performance of a composition by Owen Underhill. Owen composed new original music for a selection of my bee poems from Listening to the Bees (Nightwood Editions, 2018) and we performed “Bee Studies” with one of Canada’s leading group of classical musicians premiered at the Orpheum Annex with Turning Point Ensemble.

-March 17, “The Happiness Project” a dance poetry collaboration with Salome Nieto produced by New Works at Vancouver Public Library, outside on the 9th floor terrace.

-March 29 and 30, poetry readings in Ottawa at VERSeFest, including an evening reading with Danish poet Ursula Andkjaer Olsen (Third Millennium Heart), and Canadian poet Dennis Lee. My performance included the launch of another THOT-J-BAP chapbook. A real stand out for me was my co-author for Listening to the Bees flying in a day earlier than our schedule reading to attend my performance before a crowd of over 300 on a bitterly cold and snowy Ottawa night. if you’ve ever attended a literary festival, you’ll understand when I add: how about those volunteers! The Ottawa poetry scene is rich with kind and supportive people.

Mid-Year 2019

April-early June brought fresh challenges and perspectives: I took on the privilege of being the 2019 Surrey English Teachers Association (SETA) Writer in Residence and visited eight schools throughout Surrey and taught poetry to over a thousand junior and high school students! I’m still resonating with all the things: about how we learn; about how to approach language in the classroom, and yes about those core curricular ideas: that texts are “culturally, historically and geographically” constructed.

In July, I re-connected with Art Song Lab as the Poetry Mentor for a very talented group of poets and composers. Art Song Lab help launch my interest into the world of composition and music performance and how fine it was to be part of this immersive program. If music composition, choral singing, art song and opera are of interest, consider applying to this program.

Speaking of support: In the beginning of this year, my husband took on the role of running coach and help me to run my very first 5k race: Shout out also to Todd Nickel for his encouragement. Race Day was very special: June 23rd. The Anniversary date of the bombing of Air India Flight 182. My PR for that race: 35:17. And again that lesson: to persist.

The summer brought mild injuries and more yoga, less running.  I decided to hire a grant writing coach and hunkered down on several large grant writing projects. Fingers crossed! As my friend and mentor Rachel Rose once said, without hope or despair.

Autumn 2019

September and October brought deep personal and family issues as I took on the care for a loved one in crisis. My heart goes out to all who are care givers for loved ones. A time of learning and reflecting.

Special shout-out: at the end of October, after many days of hospital visits and attending to home care, I had the privilege of volunteering with an amazing crew for a true passion project, the Surrey International Writer’s Conference: one of my duties is to organized, curate and host the Author Signing Event: A joy to be part of Western Canada’s largest professional development conference for writers.

November brought three creative projects to fulfillment:

-November 11, my poem-play, “Canadian Nurses in War Time,” originally commissioned by the Museum of Surrey during my tenure as Surrey Poet Laureate (2015-2018), was re-staged to a full house. Working on this project with Ishbel Newstead is opening avenues of new interest in play writing.

Guided Writing Reflections Museum of Surrey

-November 16, I collaborated with the Museum of Surrey to host a Guided Writing Reflection for the beautiful and groundbreaking Being Punjabi exhibit. What a joy it was to engage with a multi-generational and multi-cultural gathering of women writers.


-November 23, Ontario visual artist and poet, Chris Turnbull, whose eco poetics and experimental and innovative work I greatly admire, invited me to read with her at one of Vancouver’s oldest independent bookstores, People’s Co-op Bookstore, and I read new work from the epic I’ve been writing for ten years, THOT-J-BAP.  The wet night, stormy and soaking, drenched us as we entered the bookstore and the audience, small, and of great importance to me: publishers and poetry colleagues whose literary presence and work teach me a way forward. It was magic.

December brought us more of those dark, low sky days and wet weather. I love the rain and yet this year, I realized how much the dark twinged with my latent night phobia. And so I end the year, re-assessing how much I crave the light

As I look toward the new decade, I’ll be making some changes to this space, in consultation with my long standing webmaster. Because in early November, something changed for me in my fundamental understanding of what it means to be a Canadian.

I’m still processing…stay tuned… but for now, a name site change unveiled for 2020:


Shanti. XRSS