BookView Interview with Author Brian Sankarsingh

Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.

Recently, we interviewed Brian Sankarsingh, author of A Sliver of a Chance: Insights and Observations of a Canadian Immigrant, a poetry collection about racial discrimination, immigration, and Black Lives Matter (Read the reveiw here).

Brian Sankarsingh is a Trinidadian-born Canadian immigrant who describes himself as an accidental poet, with a passion for advocacy and a penchant for prose. Arriving in Canada in the 1980s, Brian worked tirelessly to forge a life and career for himself. In so doing, he inadvertently shrouded his love for poetry. Now, with his children all grown up, he has rediscovered his voice.

With renewed vigour and an unapologetic style, Sankarsingh is committed to maddeningly screaming his poetic ponderings from whatever rooftop or soapbox he can find. Wading into controversial topics like systemic racism and politics, Sankarsingh’s readers should think about his poetry as social and political commentary.

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Does writing energize or exhaust you?

ANSWER: As a poet, I let my right brain dictate when and why I need to write and my left brain decide the topic. Many of my poems deal with the human condition; racism, hate, stereotypes, and mental health. Through my professional and volunteer life, I advocate passionately in these areas. My right brain activity of translating these into poetry and prose therefore tends to energize me as it releases the tension of dealing with these often uphill battles.

How often you read?

ANSWER: I learned to read from the age of three. I have vivid and fond memories of sitting on my father’s lap and reading newspaper articles to him. Needless to say I am a voracious reader. As a young man reading introduced me to new worlds. Whether it was Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer to Shakespeare’s plays, Rumi’s poetry, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series or Frank Herbert’s Dune, I always have a book in my hand.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

ANSWER: Start NOW! I waited 40 years before deciding to share my poetry with the world. Part of the reason was that I did not think it was worth sharing. If you’re in that same frame of mind then I implore – start now!

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

ANSWER: Publishing my first book was cathartic and the process of deciding what poetry needed to be in it and what needed to be added was very therapeutic. As I begin to work on my second book however, I have adopted a decidedly more project minded approach. Whereas my first book felt like jumping into the deep end of a cold pool, with my second book, I am checking the pool temperature while slowly and methodologically stepping in.

How did you decide which form or genre was right for you?

ANSWER: Ever since I was a young man I wanted to write. Growing up in a poor Caribbean island however, was not extremely conducive to that aspiration. Coming across Shakespeare’s Sonnets changed the course of my writing life though. As a lovelorn teen, I wrote and sold poems to my contemporaries who wanted to woo their significant others with romantic poetry. With each success, poetry slowly chose me; making herself my Muse and preventing any other from capturing my pen.

Is writer’s block real?

ANSWER: I never think of it as writer’s block. On the contrary I see it as critical brain processing time. I will often go weeks without writing. During that time, I immerse myself in left brain activities as I know that it takes time for my right brain to churn and agitate these into something worth writing about. What happens therefore is after a period of no writing, I will sit and compose 20 or more poems within a very short space of time. 

What in particular attracted you to this genre?

ANSWER: As a teen, in high school, I discovered Shakespeare’s Sonnets. From that moment on poetry became the easiest way for me to convey emotions, deal with struggles and challenge biases.  

What inspired the premise of your book?

ANSWER: I am an immigrant to Canada. A hundred years ago my ancestor stepped onto the gangplank of a ship moored in India with the purpose of creating a new life in the Caribbean. It is that same pioneering spirit that compelled me to embark on a journey of my own. Canada is a wonderful place to live. The love of my new home intermixed with the longing represents the fertile ground in which this book geminated. I felt that I had a distinctive perspective that I wanted to share in a very unique – and decidedly poetic –  way. Dealing with topics like politics and racism from the immigrant’s viewpoint seemed a natural fit.

What makes this book important right now?

ANSWER: I ran for office as a councillor in my town and this experience caused me to look at politics in a very different way. This combined with my lived experience as a person of colour, an immigrant and someone who faced the spectre of racism impelled me to write this book. As you read the chapters on Politics, Racism, Colonialism and Struggle you will see my own life experiences bleeding onto the pages. A Sliver of a Chance challenges the reader by confronting them with the hate we are witnessing south of the Canadian border, the struggle of organizations such as Black Lives Matter, the trials and tribulations of People of Colour in the USA and Canada.

What’s next for you?

ANSWER: Before I received the printed copy of A Sliver of a Chance, I was already beginning to work on my next book. Once again this will be a book of poetry but there will be a twist like no other. In fact, something like this has never been done before. It will be ground-breaking, but it will take about two years to accomplish. Stay tuned!


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