Sunday, January 28, 2018

Nikki Sheppy reviews Renée Sarojini’s After the Battle of Kingsway, the Bees— (2016) in filling Station #68

Calgary poet and editor [and Touch the Donkey contributor] Nikki Sheppy provides a new review of Renée Sarojini’s bpNichol Chapbook Award-shortlisted title After the Battle of Kingsway, the Bees— (2016), alongside reviews of new works by Jordan Abel, Helen Hajnoczky and Natalie Lauchlan, in filling Station #68, an issue billed as “the small press issue.” Thanks so much! This is actually the second review of Saklikar’s chapbook, after Scott Bryson was good enough to discuss it over at Broken Pencil. As Sheppy writes:

Bees, not moths, figure in Renée Sarojini Saklikar’s butter-coloured chapbook, After the Battle of Kingsway, the Bees— from above/ground press. The 15-page suite is an excerpt from volume 2 of Saklikar’s ongoing long work about place and identity, thecanadaproject—from which her first book, Children of Air India, un/authorized exhibits and interjections, also draws.

Set on Vancouver’s Kingsway, the poem suite sidles back and forth between the floral homeland of bees and urban scenes of protest and assembly, curiously counterpoising natural and built habitats: “Blackberry, buttercup, fireweed, / hairycat’s ear, thistle // of demonstrations.” Probing issues of housing, Saklikar seamlessly moves from Carder bees congregating on clover to demonstrators behind barricades outside Rentalsman, from a bee’s warmed wax cup to abductions and detainees. The contrast is strategic, but gentle, thoughtfully placing a magnifying lens over snatched moments and details.

Her “many genera” moving in the lee of “condo cranes,” or roused to action on the steps of a public building, yearn in solidarity: “O for a hundred thousand / homes we might call to.” Their struggles bend them towards nature’s weedy resilience: “they longed to feed him / larkspur, large-leaved lupine, / wrap him blue weed, viper’s bugloss.” The collection closes with testimony, incarceration, and lament, but also with asylum amidst the cedar and sequoia.

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