The Compassionate Poet: An exploration

Edited by Renée Sarojini Saklikar

Contributors: Grace Lau, Phoebe Wang, Renée Sarojini Saklikar, Heather Birrell, Tara Borin, Molly Cross-Blanchard, Margo LaPierre

From the introduction:

“For me, forgiveness and compassion are always linked: how do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing and yet at the same time remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed?”
— bell hooks

These are tough times we live in: pandemic inequities and our climate change emergency, and the ongoing pain of racial and economic injustice, act as clarion calls to action for humans and certainly for feminists. As I write, Russia invades Ukraine, bringing not only calamity but also, the spectre, no longer remote, of a possible world war. However cliché the word, “unprecedented” holds us in its grip. This is the context in which the League of Canadian Poets invited me to help curate a conversation with poets, most of whom I’d never met.

We spoke over the internet and our conversations were recorded into podcasts available at Welcomed and supported by League staff (Lesley Fletcher and Nic Brewer) and the Feminist Caucus (Ayesha Chatterjee), I was honoured to listen and to share with Heather Birrell and Phoebe Wang; Grace Lau and Margo La Pierre; Molly Cross-Blanchard and Tara Borin. Our conversations centred around a set of questions I’ve been mulling during the years of our pandemic:

  • What role can a compassionate feminism, that seeks to find connection and solidarity, play in re-connecting poets to each other?
  • How can the essentially solitary act of making poems be sustained by a community of poets who respect, admire, and are curious about one another?
  • How might poets enact these qualities as interactions with each other?
  • And most urgently, how might we as poets take of ourselves and each other?

These are the inquiries animating the story behind the curation of the poems in this collection.

As the editor of the 2022 Feminist Caucus chapbook, I am grateful to work with the Caucus and the League to invite poets from across Canada into a conversation on “what hurts, what helps, what heals,” my mantra for compassionate inquiry to help sustain self and community.

The poems in this chapbook are offerings that respond to that mantra, extending healing and provoking discussion, in poems that reach out across divides and that divine the self situated in our global, political and ecological moment.

My hope is that readers of this little book might find within it respite from the terrible uncertainties and pressing anxieties of this, our “new world order” and in reading, so, too, discover self-care and support.

I’ve never been so aware of how radical bell hooks’ exaltation truly is: to demand accountability, to seek justice, and yet, still, to keep an open heart for the “other,” and, most important of all, to be gentle with ourselves.

May each reader encounter here, as I’ve done, inspiration for the struggle.
May each find both solace and energy to keep on keeping on.

Renée Sarojini Saklikar is a writer and lawyer who lives in Vancouver on the unceded traditional territories of the Coast Salish peoples. Her work appears in many journals and anthologies, and she is the author of four books, including the ground-breaking poetry book, children of air india, about the bombing of Air India Flight 182 which won the Canadian Authors Association Poetry Prize; and is the co-author, with Dr. Mark Winston, of the poetry and essay collection, Listening to the Bees, winner of the 2019 Gold Medal Independent Publishers Book Award, Environment/Ecology. Her work has been adapted for visual art, dance, and opera, including air india [redacted] with SFU Woodward’s, the Irish Arts Council, and Turning Point Ensemble. She was the inaugural Poet Laureate for the City of Surrey (2015-2018), and she teaches creative writing as well as law and ethics for writer and editors. Renée Sarojini curates Lunch Poems at SFU and the Vancouver Poetry Phone; and is a member of Meet Th e Presses. Renée Sarojini works the epic, reclaiming it for climate justice and a diverse cast of heroes, in her long poem project, THOT J BAP, The Heart of This Journey Bears All Patterns, an epic fantasy in verse. Th e fi rst book in this series is Bramah and The Beggar Boy, (Nightwood Editions, 2021). For more information on this epic series as well as a statement of poetics, please visit

(NOW CLOSED) Submission guidelines:

  • Submissions are open to Canadian citizens and poets living and/or practicing in Canada.
  • All submissions must be in DOC, DOCX or PDF format.
  • Images should be 300 DPI or higher.
  • Open to members and non-members 
    • Members may submit up to 2 poems 
    • Non-members may submit 1 poem
  • Please complete the form in its entirety. If you have trouble with the form, contact [email protected]
  • We accept simultaneous submissions. If your piece is accepted elsewhere, please notify us immediately.
  • Selected poets will receive a $25 honorarium per selected poem.