Who are the members of the League of Canadian Poets? With over 750 members – growing every day -, our membership is diverse. Of course, though, all members have one thing in common: poetry! 6 Pieces on Poetry is our new quarterly series where members of the League will answer our 6 questions. We’ll talk poetry, writing lives & lessons, and inspiration, and through 6 Pieces on Poetry, you’ll get to know our membership a little better.
Today we’re talking poetry with Nisha Patel! Nisha Patel is an Indo-Canadian poet, artist, and public speaker in Edmonton, Alberta. She is the 2019 Canadian Individual Slam Champion, the 2019 Edmonton Slam Champion, and the Executive Director of the Edmonton Poetry Festival. She is the author of Limited Success and co-author of Water, available now. She is the 2016 Edmonton Indie Slam Champion and a four-time member of the Edmonton Slam Team. She is a finalist of the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word. She is the former Artist-in-Residence at The Nook Cafe and The Sewing Machine Factory. Her work has also been published in The Glass Buffalo Vol. 2 No. 3 & The City Series: Number Four – Edmonton, as well as The Polyglot Issue 3: Curating our Canons. Nisha holds a Bachelors of Commerce from the University of Alberta school of Business with a major in Business Economics and Law, a minor in Political Science, and a Certificate in Leadership. Find Nisha on Instagram & Twitter @anothernisha.
1. How did poetry become part of your life?
I saw a spoken word poet perform and it brought me to tears. And months later, living up in Treaty 8, falling into a period of loneliness and isolation, I thought to myself—I could do that. And so I took up the pen, and I wrote, and when I returned to Treaty 6 I found an open mic. I brought myself to tears that night, along with the audience. I didn’t look back.
2. What themes do you explore most consistently through your writing?
The body, and the shame and joys and difficulties of being alive inside a body. I speak so, so much about consumption of my person, or my own consumption of my culture. I speak to the diaspora and the identities I occupy, and all the ways they weigh me down and uplift me.
3. Do you feel that you’ve found a writing practice that works for you? If yes, can you tell us about it? If not, describe the challenges that you face that prevent you from feeling this way.
My writing practice is to work under pressure. I never, ever write a poem leisurely. Instead, I function under time constraints and deadlines, self-imposed or external, which are normal for my life as an artist. And when I get stuck, I read a good poem so I remember what poetry is supposed to be, before returning to my own work and trying to remember that I, too, am a poet.
4. What lesson that you learned through a creative writing course/workshop/lecture/book sticks with you most presently?
You don’t have to write poems about queerness to prove that you’re queer. You can write a poem about trees, and it is queer because YOU wrote. And that’s enough. That’s what poetry asks of us.
5. What is the importance of community to your writing life?
There is no meaning to art without community. My poems don’t complete their intentions with the universe unless they find a home within people. And people deserve to come up and be vulnerable in safe spaces, so it’s our jobs as poets to foster the writing and the place the writing lives at the same time.
6. What keeps you going as a writer?
Someone needs to hear it. If, in my loneliest stories, I am writing something that is heavy for me I know that is part of being human that there must and will always be another person who needs this story as much as I do. And as long as I believe that, I will keep on.
Nisha was recently appointed the 8th Poet Laureate of of Edmonton, Alberta! The Edmonton Arts Council chatted with Nisha about her poetry, being appointed Poet Laureate, and what she has in store over her term. You can read their interview here. Congratulations, Nisha!