The 24th Virtual Gathering of Surrey Muse – Friday April 22 / 2022

114th Gathering


Featured Artists
Author Rachel Thompson
Poet Kyle McKillop
Dancer Celeste Snowber
Open Mic Opener Jovian Radheshwar
Just Launched by Franci Louann
Featured Art by Shehan Madawela
Host Mariam Zohra D

LIVE Watch Party
Friday, April 22, 2022
5:30 -7:00 PM (PT)
Join us at:
Surrey Muse Channel on YouTube

Open Mic submissions
Send 3-5 minute video/audio recordings via email by April 12th
Submission guidelines

Free event
Closed Captioned (cc)
Donations welcome

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Surrey Muse gatherings take place
on the unceded Coast Salish territories of
the Semiahmoo, Katzie, Kwikwetlem, Kwantlen,
Qayqayt, Tsawwassen, Musqueam,
Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.


Surrey Muse July 27th 2012 Meeting Report by Sonja Grgar

Surrey Muse - July 27-12-group

The preciously rare, sun-soaked Surrey days were not enough temptation for the literature and art enthusiasts of the Surrey Muse group, as the members showed up in plentiful numbers for the July 27th meeting.

Host Randeep initiated another evening of engaging presentations delivered to the group’s now signature warm, receptive, and diverse audience.



He first congratulated Gomathy Puri, whose novel Islands Unto Ourselves was published in June, and then he introduced Joanne Arnott, the evening’s featured author.


Surrey Muse - July 27-12-arnott

Ms. Arnott is a writer and activist of Metis background who draws on the interplay between the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal backgrounds in her work. She is originally from Manitoba, and currently lives in Richmond, BC. In addition to being a writer and activist, Ms. Arnott is a poet, educator, and speaker who is also a founding member of the Aboriginal Writers Collective West Coast, and the 1992 winner of the League of Canadian Poets Gerald Lampert Award for her first book of poetry, Wiles of Girlhood.

The author talked about how in her family the parts that no one wants to discuss are the Mohawk and possibly Anishinabe ancestry, and that she hopes that one day that will all be clearer, but until then, she is ‘travelling without papers’. Ms. Arnott mentioned that she got into writing as a means of expressing her many thoughts and ideas. She described herself as very opinionated, but also afraid of people, so putting thoughts on the page seemed like a perfect way to nurture them without having to be immediately confrontational.

She began today’s presentation by reading from her book Breasting the Waves: On Writing and Healing, and sharing a narrative about a woman having a baby in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Then we heard a piece that was published in West Coast Line magazine about a young woman taking dance classes, and trying to understand her life in the context of Vancouver’s Aboriginal cultural landscape.

The desire to connect with one’s Aboriginal roots, and yet the complexity and perhaps even confusion that arises in that process, permeated many of the works Ms. Arnott shared, including one titled Small Birds, Sounds Out of Silence that will be coming out in an indigenous anthology. The piece focuses on a woman attempting to raise a baby in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, and desiring, but not getting input from the Aboriginal Elders. The author closed the presentation with a pithy rhyme that many writers can likely relate to, and which, to paraphrase it closely, read as, ‘I’ve got a dollar, cigarettes, card from the library / they won’t employ me in a poem breaking factory’.

The discussion following Ms. Arnott’s presentation touched on several interesting points. When asked how and when she writes, Ms. Arnott said that she usually writes out of a mood, an irritation, out of something uncomfortable, but not necessarily negative. She tends to write long, and then cuts back afterwards, and is particularly attentive to how the work sounds when she performs it in front of an audience because that experience gives her clues for editing. She also says that she never throws out what she thinks is not good, because what she hates now, she knows she might like later, or find some sort of ‘meat’ in it to fuel future projects.

One of the audience members was curious about Ms. Arnott’s activist background, so the author explained that it reaches back to her childhood, when her parents took her to peace marches. A turning point in her activist work was participating in a retreat with a Mohawk writer, which encouraged her to apply activist ideas in her writers collective because she felt that just listening to powerful, and at times sorrow drenched stories, was not enough.

Surrey Muse - July 27-12-franci

The evening’s featured poet Franci Louann followed Joanne Arnott’s presentation with a very different literary style and subject matter. Ms. Louann is the author of four collections of poems, and is a writer who is unconditionally committed to the development of poetry and poetics. To that end, she organizes poetry readings in New Westminster and Vancouver, and is the co-founder of Poetic Justice, a New Westminster poetry group that meets weekly.

Ms. Louann prefers shorter poetry of varying style and content, and has an expressive and melodious performance style in which she delivers each word with measured impact, and thereby allows the audience to absorb her work more fully. The author shared with the Surrey Muse audience a varied selection from her rich body of work. She began by reading a poem called Encounter from Woman’s Eye, an anthology assembled by Dorothy Livesay, and followed it by a poem that won the Reverberations Magazine 25th anniversary contest. It is titled Sideview, and is about the experience of watching a Solomon Island musical group perform at Vancouver’s Folk Music Festival.

Ms. Louann also shared a haiku poem that she wrote in the memory of Anne Mackay, a brilliant haiku poet and her friend, and then followed by a few samples from her collection Beach Cardiology including poems titled Tsunami News, Completion, and the titular Beach Cardiology in which the speaker ponders whether on a beach where stones resemble the shape of a heart, the hearts of people present on the beach are unmoved, and stone-like themselves. Morning over the Frasier is a poem from the New Westminster’s Royal City Poets Anthology which pays an homage to the unique poetic quality of the Frasier Valley landscape.

Ms. Louann’s eclectic offering also included poems that dealt with emotional and physical longing such as her erotic poem Rhapsody in Red with the memorable last line, to closely paraphrase, ‘When our love came red, it filled the room’. Half-Moon which was featured on CBC radio deals with the loss of a loved one’s presence by referencing the speaker as ‘This half’, and extending that description at the end of the poem to ‘This half without you’.

Once again, an involved discussion with the audience followed this presentation as well. When asked what her writing space is like, Ms. Louann revealed that she prefers working in a public space such as a café where there are less distractions than at home. She also workshops her poetry with her writers group, and edits heavily based on their feedback. She says that she enjoys workshopping because of the intelligent input she gets from others, and she finds that it ultimately helps her to create better work. One of the writers in the room responded that she finds that interesting because she herself never workshops, and doesn’t find the process useful at all because it can interfere with the uniqueness of one’s creative voice.

Another person asked Ms. Louann what she thinks a poem should do for its audience or its reader. She responded that perhaps a poem should change someone’s feelings about something, or give you imagery that takes you to a previously unvisited intellectual or creative place. However, she said that poetry for her is not about reaching a designated impact, but rather that hearing a good poem is like listening to a piece of music – it’s about the process, and the aesthetic experience of that moment. Other audience members echoed that sentiment by questioning the notion that a poem has to do anything specific at all; just the experience of hearing it can be its own reward.

Surrey Muse - July 27-12-hari1

The evening’s last featured artist, Hari Alluri, took the stage after Ms. Louann. Mr. Alluri is a Vancouver based Filipino South Asian filmmaker and poet, who, in addition to his latest film project, Pasalubong: Gifts from the Journey (NFB, 2010), also created Memory Block as a part of The Colouring Book: Digital Shorts by Artists of Colour (NFB, 2008), and Acknowledge (2009), which is part of Cineworks’ Cinematic Cartographies workshop.

Mr. Alluri is a poet himself, and before screening the film, he shared a poem of his titled Director’s Notes for Memory Blocked Script. The work had a list poem, as well as spoken word qualities that were reflected both in its written form, and in Alluri’s performance style. The poem was an excellent introduction to the film because poetry led Alluri towards filmmaking. A producer took an interest in his work at one of his poetry readings, and suggested that he consider making a short film loosely based on his poetry. The producer was able to secure the interest and the funding of the National Film Board of Canada for Alluri’s first short film titled Pasalubong: Gifts from the Journey (2010). The film was screened at this gathering, and was followed immediately by a discussion with the audience.

The film follows Bonifacio, a young Filipino man who is returning to his birthplace for his grandmother’s funeral, and is wracked by anxiety and guilt towards his roots, and with regards to what his cultural and emotional loyalties should be. The film is a reflection on the seemingly never-ending partings with loved ones that the lives of most immigrants are consistently punctuated by, especially when they revisit their birthplace either in person or in their imagination. The film is filled with reflections, shadows, and memories, and has a dream-like quality.

Mr. Alluri received diverse feedback upon the film’s screening. A number of individuals spoke to the fact that they enjoyed the loose narrative structure, and the reflective tone, while one audience member expressed that he would have liked to have seen more explicitly detailed background on all of the characters in the film. Mr. Alluri listened to both types of feedback attentively, and explained that he left the pieces missing in the narrative on purpose because he really wanted to draw on the audience’s own imaginative capacity to fill in any existing blanks.

There was also a lot of interest in how Mr. Alluri got involved with filmmaking, and what the process was like on his very first project which he directed. He mentioned that he attributes his interest in film to an interest in people, and in the human psyche, and that those both reach back to his childhood. He found the filmmaking process to be challenging, but rewarding, and said that one of the most interesting things was how quickly everything had to be done in order to meet budgetary demands. Also, creative adjustments had to be consistently made during the filming in order to meet budgetary, time, and location constraints, and he found that balancing act to be particularly fascinating.

Surrey Muse - July 27-12-shay
As usual, Open Mic readings followed the evening’s featured artists with Timothy Shay as the opening performer. Mr. Shay read several of his poems, including My Mother Dreamed, which featured an emotionally loaded recollection of a family’s past, and featured visceral contrasting imagery such as ‘idiot songs of  hopeful children’, which brought out the speaker’s emotional conflict and pain.

Then Valerie B-Taylor took the stage to read for Gomathy Puri. We heard the few opening pages of Gomathy’s recently published debut novel Islands Unto Ourselves, featuring the arrival of an immigrant family to 1970’s Winnipeg, and their first impressions and thoughts in the new environment. Helga Parekh followed with a haiku offering titled To China I Fly, and a poem Under Currents which mused on a breeze that equally touches ‘the lonely, the happy, and the forgotten’.

Jo Martinez was the next performer, and read My Heart, a poem which used free verse to explore the varying complex emotions that the speaker’s heart stands for.



Tarek Kashef followed with a whimsical offering of a couple of poems; Blaine Come Here explored the concepts of light and magic, while I am a Fish weighed in on the notions of humility versus conceit.



Lastly, I, Sonja Grgar, shared three poems that explored a longing for connection, and in If I Could Only Tell Him, elegized the speaker’s inability to share deep and difficult truths in close personal relationships.

Copyright Sonja Grgar 2012


Contact Sonja Grgar

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Franci Louann – Surrey Muse


Franci Louann, born in Stratford as Frances Louann Workman, is a poet who comes across as being unconditionally committed to the development of poetry and poetics. The author of ‘innumerable’ collections of poems (some manuscripts published), Franci has initiated and organized poetry reading groups in the Vancouver area for many years. In 2010 she co-founded Poetic Justice, a weekly event in New Westminster. Find more information about these Sunday afternoon events at

Franci’s poems have won prizes. Her first was written when she was twelve. Her last award was Honourable Mention (2nd prize of two) in the Surrey International Writers’ Conference in 2013. A mild and beautiful spirit runs through her person and her poetry. So, if you ask her something like ‘What moved you to become a poet?’, you may get this delicacy for an answer: ‘Poetry I saw as a way to put an important thought in a package and put a ribbon on it.’

Some more questions and answers

What moves you to write a poem?
‘Emotion makes me write poetry. It can be so varied—for example, a response to injustice, another’s well-written poem or a life well-lived.’

What is your most favourite form in poetry that you use the most when writing?
‘Just call me ‘Franci Freestyle’. Each poem hears its own drummer. I tend to make things tidy on the page, unless something else (a ragged form) seems appropriate. Seldom do my poems dangle in the middle of a page.’

Do you see ‘stages’ in your poetry over the years, either in form or content?
‘Most of my short poems (ten lines or fewer) were written in the 70’s and 80’s. Some of these appeared in Dorothy Livesay’s last anthology, Woman’s Eye—12 BC poets (Air, 1974-75). Now I can easily fill a page. I prefer one page as a maximum length. Otherwise I usually create a series, or have numbered parts appear on different pages.’

What are you working on now?
‘I have several manuscripts underway. For example, Whatever Happened to Fran Workman? This could be answered with sub-titles: (1) Ten Lines or Fewer (2) Retro (spective) or (3) In Argentina. Or Whatever Happened, etc could be a sub-title for three different works.’

When did you start your own press, and why?
‘Horse of Course Press was a name that I couldn’t resist in 2006. One manuscript was produced that year. Two chapbooks have their ISBNs. I’m bored with self-publishing. Love it when publishers ‘knock on my door’. It has happened.’

You have an email list for poetry news?
‘I started that about ten years ago and was awarded a volunteer media award from World Poetry in 2007. My netbook’s email program has been protesting about it, so it is inactive at this time.’

Are you a member of writers’ groups?
‘At this time I am not exactly an active participant. I don’t need more prompts but need the time to manage what I have – to rewrite poems and create manuscripts. There is a banker’s box here which may be half full of new half-poems, never typed in. I love to proof prose, edit poetry and am available as a mentor.’

Are you a writer-in-residence?
‘Not formally, at the moment. I have been this in some locations around town and certainly on other continents—in Argentina, Australia and Portugal.’

When did you come to Vancouver?
‘From SW Ontario, I came in 1968.’

Have you lived in other countries?
‘In the 70s I was more than six months in Britain and Europe. In 07-08 my partner and I spent six months in Buenos Aires. I have almost 150 poems about Argentina. That’s my largest collection on one theme.’

Would you like to share anything personal?
‘Personal? I had a long and satisfactory career as a dental hygienist.’

Publications: Beach Cardiology, Lipstick Press (2010); Franci Louann’s poems have appeared in many fine anthologies.
To order books from Horse of Course Press, contact Franci Louann at for a list of titles.

At the November 28 Surrey Muse event, Franci Louann will present a selection from her recent poems.

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March 23 Surrey Muse – Report by Sonja Grgar

Poetry, song, discourse, and, of course, samosas, all abounded at the March 23rd Surrey Muse gathering, hosted by Sana Janjua.

Betsy Warland initiated the evening’s featured presentations with readings of her poetry, and excerpts from her essays, as well as from an upcoming novel set in part in Vancouver. Ms.Warland is a creative nonfiction writer, poet, essayist, teacher, manuscript consultant, and editor. She is known as a writer dedicated to emerging writers, and is the director of The Writer’s Studio Program at Simon Fraser University’s Writing and Publishing Program, and of her own five month manuscript development program, Vancouver Manuscript Intensive.

Her poems “Dark Thoughts” and “Origin of Contradiction” explored the relationship between darkness and light in our lives. Ms.Warland commented that the complexity of that relationship is in her opinion particularly relevant in what she described as today’s somber times. She also reflected on that gap that almost always exists between the author’s ideas, and the manner in which the audience perceives their work. She mentioned that she is continually surprised to learn what a different identity her work can have for the reader – in some cases completely divergent from her intentions, and her inspiration for the piece.

Ms.Warland also read from the novel she is currently working on that is partly set in Vancouver. She read an excerpt in which Oscar, the main protagonist, negotiates her own identity in the face of rigid standards of femininity while camping with other youth. Oscar soon hears about the massacre in the Norwegian summer youth camp that made the headlines a little while ago. The horrific prospect of never being safe despite appearances to the contrary reflects on her own dilemma, and her life in general.

Ms.Warland’s reading of a poem about a missing Vancouver girl that was composed entirely from excerpts of missing women posters, drew an emotional response both from the author, and from the Surrey Muse audience. The author mentioned that she is touched by the injustice and violence that young people living on the streets of East Vancouver or Downtown Eastside experience on a daily basis, and that she felt compelled to commemorate their lives with this particular work.

A few of the questions that Ms.Warland received in the discussion period after her reading focused on her preferred form of writing. The author mentioned that she favours a fluid approach to form, and likes writing in lyric prose which blends elements of both poetry and prose. And while some audience members questioned the necessity of precise definition of form, others suggested that presenting a work with reference to a specific form has practical value in that it might make for a more accessible audience presentation.

After Ms.Warland, Phinder Dulai took the stage as the evening’s featured poet. Mr.Dulai is a Surrey based poet, freelance writer, editor, and journalist who has been writing and contributing to the development of cultural communities in Surrey for the past two decades. He introduced his work as having a strong social aesthetic, and frequently exploring the relationship between identity, race, and culture. The title of his poetry collection “Basmati Brown” was motivated by the corporate competition that took place some time ago, and that was to result in one company winning exclusive rights to growing a particular type of basmati rice grain. The commodification of South Asian culture implicit in this corporate manouver inspired the tone of that poetry collection. His poem “Desert Fragments” explored both the positive and negative aspects of being rooted in the Punjabi South Asian community, while “100 Ways to Die” delivered his unique take on the issue of gang violence in that same community.

The socially conscious aesthetic permeates not only the content, but also the form of Mr.Dulai’s work. This inclination is particularly evident in his “Ragas from the Periphery” collection, since ragas are traditional melodic modes used in Indian classical music. In Mr. Dulai’s work, ragas are poems that have musical, sing song elements. The mellifluous quality of poems like “Nocturnal Song” exemplifies the lyrical capacity of the raga form.

Mr.Dulai demonstrated the diversity of tone in his work by reading a few humorous poems as well like the “Atomic Eeyore”, and the “Soothsayer’s Word” – the latter being a comic take on the meant-to-be-narratives, featuring a contrast between the author being told that he was destined to influence and direct people, and the realization of that notion in the somewhat modest reality of working as a parking lot attendant in his college days. Mr.Dulai reflected on the fact that a significant part of the writing process for him consists of asking what is poetry, and continually evolving the answer. He said that he is greatly influenced by a modernist contemporary aesthetic, but is open to expanding his writing style.

Much of the discussion following Mr.Dulai’s reading echoed the concepts and ideas brought up after Ms.Warland’s presentation, in particular those about form, genre, and the interpretative role of the reader. When asked whether he consciously changes his language when writing socially and politically pointed work, he answered that he used to write in a more emphatic political voice in those situations, but now tries to make sure that the language is more nuanced, and therefore more suitable to poetry. One audience member wanted to know if Mr.Dulai writes in forms other than poetry. Mr. Dulai replied that although he would like to embrace prose, that he finds himself unable to balance being inspired while writing in the longer format that prose most often requires, and therefore ends up always reverting to poetry. There were also a few questions about whether reading his work in front of an audience makes him experience it differently, and the author affirmed that he definitely catches different nuances on each different reading, thereby modifying, and in a sense, recreating the work at each different presentation.

The last presenter for the evening was Enrico Renz, a Burnaby based musician who is coming back more actively to his music after a twenty five year hiatus, and is poised to release his first cd this year. Though he plays several instruments, Mr.Renz focused on acoustic guitar during this gathering, and played a selection of songs that blended humour with socially and environmentally pointed sentiments, even featuring a bit of physical comedy and mimicry. He opened with a poem that used a fishbowl as a metaphor for our society of constant surveillance and invasive transparency, and obsession with technology that not only greatly contributes to the demise of environment and our health, but also frequently commodifies and stifles creativity.

“Oh, Humanity” was a song about monkeys that satirically reflected on the supposed progress humanity has made from its tree climbing primate days, and the abuse of other living beings that has occurred as a result. There was a song about a woman lost in the urban cityscape that no one is looking for anymore, once again highlighting the isolation of modern life. “Labyrinth” was the last song Mr.Renz performed, and the lyrics spoke about loving one’s own labyrinth before getting out – a poignant and beautiful metaphor for owning the complexity of one’s life, and exploiting the creative potential of pain and confusion.

Mr.Renz received a few questions about his writing and composing process, and also about performing for different types of audiences. He mentioned that he often plays music for contact dance groups – where dancers improvise spontaneous and interactive movement to music, and naturally that environment demands a very different musical sensibility than performing at a gathering such as the Surrey Muse. Mr.Renz is known for his gradual and thorough process when it comes to creating music, and in fact describes himself as not so much a music builder as a music gardener – someone who nurtures ideas patiently, and builds them to maturity over time.

Following the featured artist presentations, several writers took the stage for open mic readings. Mariam Zohra Durrani initiated the open mic presentations with a reading of a haunting poem in which the protagonist seemed to wrestle with raw and painful memories. Franci Louann, who was the featured book signing author that evening, read a couple of her poems that explored the loss of love (or, possibly, loved ones), and the painful fading of memories that goes along with that process. Valerie B.-Taylor read a prose excerpt about a woman sleeping, where the image of her body mummified by the sheets that enveloped her seemed to stand as a metaphor for the complexity and the confinement of her femininity.

Jason Sunder followed with his eclectic combination of experimental poetry that seemed to mix a modernist aesthetic with a postmodernist and absurdist subject matter and tone. Jo Martinez followed with a prose piece about the value of exploring one’s dreams and ambitions. Sonja Grgar read a micro-prose piece that is to be published this year in an anthology, and three poems featuring a raw exploration of love, loss, and gratitude. Fauzia Rafique closed the evening’s open mic with her poem “Sharia Compliant Bra” which used a humorous mother-daughter dialogue to provide a satirically biting critique of how female bodies and sexuality are handled in a conservative Islamic environment.

Copyright By Sonja Grgar

March 23-2012 Gathering of Surrey Muse

Friday March 23, 2012
5:30 – 8:30 PM
Room 418 – City Centre branch
Surrey Public Library
Phone: (604) 598-7420
(Surrey Central skytrain)

Guest Author Betsy Warland
Featured Poet Phinder Dulai
Featured Musician Enrico Renz
Open Mic opens with Mariam Zohra-Durrani
Book Signing Franci Louann
Host Sana Janjua
(Musician Enrico Renz in place of Artist Kate Sully)

Book Table

Free event
Donations welcome

More about Surrey Muse Gatherings

Jan-June 2012 Program