Poet and performance artist Moez Surani is at the Caetani Cultural Centre this month as Kalamalka Press’ writer-in-residence.

Poet wakes up to words at Caetani

Poet, performance artist Moez Surani is visiting Vernon as Kalamalka Press' new writer-in-residence at the Caetani Cultural Centre.

Poet Moez Surani is not wet behind the ears when it comes to weaving words, but he did once embark on a rather watery journey.

In 2012, he joined four other fellow Canadian poets and a folk singer to paddle down Southeastern Ontario’s Grand River as part of  the country’s only canoe-led literary tour.

Entitled the Fish Quill Poetry Boat, the tour saw the participants paddling and portaging on route to rural communities along the shore, where they gave readings and performances.

Along for the journey was local poet and Okanagan College Vernon campus English professor Kevin McPherson, who bonded with Surani on the trip, and has continued to collaborate with him since.

That relationship continues as Surani is currently in Vernon as part of the writer residency program organized by Kalamalka Press, where McPherson serves as editor in chief.

“This is Kalamalka Press’ first year partnering with the Caetani Culture Centre for the residency, and so far it seems brilliant,” said McPherson.

Previously held at the Mackie Lake House, the new residency is now one month long, up from two weeks, which gives the writers more time to work on their projects, and also gives them time to better interact with the community.

“In fact, Moez likes it here so much (so far) that he’s extended his stay by two weeks,” said McPherson.

Surani has a bachelor’s of arts in biology, English and literature from Queens University in Kingston, Ont. He earned a master’s from Montreal’s Concordia University in English language, literature and creative writing. Following these degrees, he travelled and worked abroad.

His writing has been published in journals and anthologies across Europe and North America. His first poetry collection, Reticent Bodies, was published in 2009.

That same year, Surani won a Chalmers Arts Fellowship that supported a research stint to India and East Africa. He walked the Camino de Santiago across Spain and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and attended artists residencies in Italy, Finland, Latvia, Switzerland and Taiwan.

In 2012, he published his second poetry collection, Floating Life, which was praised for its stunning, simple images.

Surani is now working on collaborations and on interdisciplinary art and performance art pieces.

“He’s done performance art with the Elephants Collective in Toronto, his hometown, and is currently working on a collaborative installation that requires the services of a perfumer in Texas,” said McPherson.

During his time at the Caetani house, Surani will be working on his forthcoming book, عملية Operación Opération Operation 行动 Oперация, to be published in the spring by Toronto’s Book Thug.

As part of his residency, Surani is giving a public reading at Vernon’s Gallery Vertigo (Suite #1, 3001-31st St.) Thursday, Oct. 22. The event is free and doors open at 7 p.m. with the reading at 7:30 p.m.

Surani is also giving a poetry workshop at the Vernon branch of the Okanagan Regional Library Nov. 7 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.


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