Rasa theory, part of Indian genre theory and Sanskritic poetics, describes an elaborate typology of nine essences or emotions, ranging from adbhuta (wonder) to raudra (fury) to karuna (sorrow) to santa (serentity). This first collection of poetry by Kuldip Gill is rich with these emotions.
Gill, a Sikh woman who immigrated to Canada in 1939, creates poems that open different worlds as they inform and fascinate. This is a poetics that intertwines English and Punjabi, life in Canada and life in India, past and present, myth and imagination. The reader is invited to accompany Gill as she reads the love letters her father wrote to her mother; travels to British Columbia on the CPR Steamship Empress of Japan; visits the streets of New Dehli and Benares; and relives her family's struggles and challenges as they try to make a home in a new land.
Lush and lyrical, powerful and evocative, Gill's words will sing to you long after you've finished her last poem.
Kuldip Gill was born in Faridkot District, Punjab, India. She immigrated to Canada at age five and then attended school in the Fraser Valley. She worked in the forestry and mining industries for twenty years and then obtained her PhD in anthropology from UBC. She has taught at UBC, SFU, and at the Open Learning Agemcy. She taught a creative writing class at the University College of the Fraser Valley. Her poetry has aired on radio and has appeared in periodicals such as Event, BC Studies, Contemporary Verse 2, and AMSSA-Cultures West. She served on the editorial board of Prism International. Gill's first book of poetry, Dharma Rasa (Nightwood Editions), was a winner of a BC 2000 Book Award. Kuldip Gill passed away May 2009.
Mama always sat us down before her
when she opened the India chest,
showed us embroidered bagh,
phulkari cloths, chadars, saris,
family letters and masala spices,
talked a bit about everything.
We sat in awe of what she said,
of what she showed us:
the beauty of jali embroidery
colours she dyed, indigo, amber, gulabi,
and the alchemy
of hundreds of bits of mirrors covering cloth,
She told us about our waddi-bebbe
our bhua and taia in our lineage,
of how we carried out our sekeria,
our relationships, arranged marriages
(there are four sets of kinsmen you can't marry)
and how we lease our lands. We can go anywhere
in this world, our roots are always with us.
She put them back into her peti,
taking care we learned to fold
letters, tapestries and cloths along
old lines, pressed,