Saturday, July 27, 2013

Goodbye Vancouver

Sunday, July 28, 6:00 to 09:00, Outdoor Barbeque/Open Mic/Poetry Reading

This summer was one of those unique times when I got to write all day and read all night (at least for 3-4 days a week), and then hike or paddle in the weekend. It was inspiring and productive. I had a lot to enjoy, lot to learn. I will write more later. For now, join me for the BBQ. 

All are welcome to this end-of-term celebration. Bring a poem, a song, or other musings to read/sing/perform to the garden and the birds and the people. Also bring something for the grill.
All events take place at Historic Joy Kogawa House, 1450 West 64th Avenue, in the garden that is beautifully tended by volunteer Marlene Enns.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Patrick Woodcock: An ‘Almost-Kurd’ Canadian

Patrick Woodcock: An ‘Almost-Kurd’ Canadian
Patrick Woodcock (R) with a Yezidi elder at the Lalish Temple, Kurdistan Region. Photo: courtesy of Patrick Woodcock.
Canadian poet and world wanderer Patrick Woodcock sees himself as an “almost-Kurd.”
After spending two years in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Region -- mostly in Duhok -- where he lived through the cold and heat, hung out and hiked the mountains and broke bread with the Kurds and taught them English, he came as near as he could to feeling like a Kurd. 
That sentiment is scattered throughout Echo Gods and Silent Mountains, the collection of poems he published about his Kurdish experience.
The book is by far the most beautiful, deep and touching collection of poetry written on Kurds by a non-Kurd. 
Woodcock speaks and feels like a Kurd when he writes: “For as long as our city sits on oil, we will sit in blood.” Or “The pond remembers another time: when flames were for light and children didn’t have to run from their light.”
But why did he step out of his comfort zone, the peaceful Canada where even many Kurds themselves have sought refuge as immigrants escaping bitter hardships and shattered lives?
“I am Canadian, and lucky to be so, so I have no right to close my eyes and run away from anything,” Woodcock says. “I feel I have a moral obligation to witness as much as I can and help whenever possible. To hide within the safe geographical bubble of my country of birth is criminal as far as I’m concerned,” he says.
Woodcock is a poet, wanderer, writer and witness who has lived in Iceland, Russia, Bosnia, Colombia, Oman and Saudi Arabia. 
He now lives in Azerbaijan, where he looks to meet more Kurds while working on another book about Kurds. “I will hopefully get the chance to meet the small Kurdish population of Azerbaijan over the summer – there are about 6,200 Kurds here.  I look forward to seeing how they feel about being an extremely small ethnic group in a country of many,” he says. 
Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper described Echo Gods and Silent Mountains as “a noisy, conflicted affair, unwilling to sacrifice complexity for theme.” 
What distinguishes Patrick Woodcock from other Westerners who, for a variety of reasons, call Kurdistan home for a phase, is his genuine empathy and his non-condescending perspective.
 He does not apply Western Standards to judge the wounded Kurdistan, does not look down upon Kurds’ mistakes and miseries, no traces of self-importance or self-interest is found in his personality and his writing.
“I sleep better when I have written something I like,” says the poet, who does not write for profit, ego or fame.  “I am also kinder, funnier and more tolerant after I have written.  I guess my writing helps me navigate through this odd life we are given – this life that, in the end, makes absolutely no sense to me.” 
About his most inspiring moments in Kurdistan, Woodcock says there were many, but then singles out meeting his friend Siyamand’s father as the experience that had the most lasting effect on him.
“He is 88, and has suffered two strokes.  He spent his life fighting as a Peshmerga – he saw his village destroyed and gutted.  But he still would come out with us to the irrigation pond near his old home in Binavy.  He would sit and talk and pray and smile.  It was beautiful to watch him stare at the mountains.”
“Kurds are certainly the toughest people I have ever met,” he says, describing them as,” An odd mixture of optimism and fatalism.”
Woodcock, is the author of this and seven other poetry books. Always Die Before Your Mother was one of the top Globe and Mail bestsellers. His poetry has been published in the United States, Britain, India, Colombia and Canada.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Echoes from the Other Land is translated and published in Kurdish

A gentleman named Rawaz translated my book, Echoes from the Other Land, into Kurdish and a reputable publisher called Sardam, in Suleimaniah published the book.

Photo Courtesy of Katrina Afonso

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

4 Hours Walk/Hike at Stanley Park

The owner was an elderly woman, over 70, and was absolutely in love with this splendid creature. You would enjoy looking at their dynamic.

After 7 hours of editing, I went for a hike that lasted 4 hours . I woke up with achy legs.

Breathtakingly Georgeous

After the long walk, she still had the energy to play fetch
Haiku the hiker

Lions Gate Bridge connects city of Vancouver to spectacular West and North Vancouver 

Sunset at English Bay 

During the long walk I listened to Stephen King and Anton Chekhov stories
(in case you were wondering how I lasted that long ;)) 

Have never tried but holding stone on stone should not be easy

She just happened to run in my picture but I like it very much

The fence didn't let me take a better photo but these laughing men are my favourite sculptures
One can't help smiling :)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

3 Hours Hike at Capilano Trail with Haiku and Sherry

While I am counting down days to return home to my husband, I am trying to get as much of Vancouver's beauty as I can. On Friday, I went for a long hike with Haiku the hiker and a lovely woman named Sherry with whom I bonded deeply. 
Can't figure out how to rotate this

Haiku thinking about lunch! _At the Hatchery

Capilano river is so limpid, I could see the fish swimming inside it

I witnessed a bald eagle hunt a salmon, sit on it for a few minutes until they prey stopped struggling and then  the victorious predator flew away staggering from the weight

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Summer at the Kogawa House Garden

Published by
Come meet our 2013 writer-in-residence, Ava Homa, during one of several events this July. 

Ava Homa exiled from Kurdistan-Iran in 2007 and is among the few Kurdish women authors who write about the history of the Kurdish community. Her three-month residency, funded by the Canada Council Author Residency Program and the British Columbia Arts Council, began on May 1, 2013, and focuses on writing, research, and community programs. In 2010, Ava Homa published her debut collection of short stories, Echoes from the Other Land, which was nominated for 2011 Frank O’Conner International Short Story Prize and was chosen as one of ten People’s Choice finalists in the 2011 Readers’ Choice Award running concurrently with Giller Prize. While is residence at Historic Joy Kogawa House, she is completing a fiction manuscript that extends the themes of one of the stories in the collection. In addition, for each of five weeks, she will meet with a group of teen writers to discuss and practise crafting short fiction. Ava Homa has been a member of PEN Canada’s Writers-in-Exile network since 2011 and was the 2012 PEN Lecturer-in-Residence at George Brown College.

Please join Ava Homa at one of several public events:

Thursday, July 18, 7:30pm, Far East, Middle East 
Julia Lin, author of Miah (Tsar, 2012) joins Ava Homa for an evening of readings and discussion about immigration, displacement, and the complexities of lives divided between Taiwan and Canada, between Iran and Canada. 

Sunday, July 21, 3:00 to 5:00pm, Women, Kurds, and Baha'is in Search of Equality in Iran
Farshid Samandari, composer-in-residence with the Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra and a Baha’i born in Iran joins Ava Homa for an afternoon of music and discussion of growing up as an excluded minority in Iran and the ways in which those with different histories and cultures can speak to – and through – each other. Light refreshments will be served.

Sunday, July 28, 6:00 to 10:00, Outdoor Barbeque/Open Mic/Poetry Reading
All are welcome to this end-of-term celebration. Bring a poem, a song, or other musings to read/sing/perform to the garden and the birds and the people. Please also bring something for the barbecue grill.

All events take place at Historic Joy Kogawa House, 1450 West 64th Avenue, in the garden that is beautifully tended by volunteer Marlene Enns.

Admission by donation but space is limited. To reserve a seat, please email

Monday, July 1, 2013

Echo Gods and Silent Mountains by Patrick Wooodcock

This extraordinary and highly talented Canadian Poet, (Patrick Woodcock) has written the best collection of poetry ever written on Kurds (by a non-Kurd)

This is my review published on Kurdistan Tribune HERE

Rather than standing at a distance and putting Kurds under a Western microscope, Woodcock becomes a Kurd when he writes, as if he has lost loved ones in genocides too, as if his hometown, school and hospital have been smashed too, as if he has unearthed the ground and has tried to identified the long-“disappeared” family and relatives too. “For as long as our city sits/on oil/we will sit in blood,” (p. 21).
Deciding on the genre of poetry, rather than non-fiction, while writing about a nation the rest of the world is repellently ignorant about, is a rare and brave decision of a writer who does not exchange his art with sales and book buzzes, and does not wish to discourage the reader from visiting Kurdistan. In a conversation with CBC, Woodcock explains his decision on the genre that, “Poetry allows you to explore the broad canvas of the page and manipulate space, language and rhythm. It lets you capture a moment that would be lost of lesser eyes while letting its beauty come forth in a way that non-fiction is incapable of.”
Woodcock is not “only curious;” beyond and regardless of language, cultural, and gender chasm, Woodcock empathizes with the Kurds. That’s why when, in his poetry, Mariama says, “They want to ride you like a mule, have you carry the weight of their cowardice. Nareen, we are only seen through our organs …” (23), we believe the voice. “Time is male. Time broke me. I wanted to sue my parents in the graveyard. They taught me love, forgiveness, purity. How does that help in corrupt times?” (25-6). Woodcock does not jump between the reader and the character. We hear Mariama.
Patrick Woodcock
Patrick Woodcock
Woodcock pinpoints and portrays humanity, purity and sacrifice, in the midst of debris, chaos and corruption. While he is aware that, “The rapists are now hotel owners and company Presidents. Hair that was once shaved off is now dyed,” (27) Patrick zooms on Mama Najat who, in his teahouse, shelters and tends to “those labelled ‘crazy,’” but  Najat “barely has enough money to care for his twelve children.” Mama Najat bathes these men, pays for their medication, and is worried that they get teased and hurt. “People call them crazy, but they are not. Saddam’s fucking regime made them like this. Some of these men were educated and had families,” (44) Woodcock, or rather Mama Najat, says. “I have one man who gets very angry when his food is late./He throws things. Once he even hurt me, but I cannot blame him./Sometimes Hadi sits and yodels, or sings words from old songs …I cry …/I like it when he sings. He has a lovely voice,” (45). Mama Najat points out that foreigners come by, take photos but leave and forget. He receives no support.
Woodcock is not the Westerner whose country manufactured the weapons that Saddam used to bomb the Kurds over and over again. “In the construction of your communities,” Woodcock writes, “think of us/ your roads are not ours/ your parks and cars as well/But we are yours,” (40). “They have stolen from us, without veils or blindfold,” Woodcock has no qualm to condemn the thieves.
Patrick Woodcock, borrows the voice of the Kurds, does not distance himself, does not judge, does not analyze. “When my brother was born, I recorded his date. June 14th is not July 1st.” His poetry is powerful, beautiful, complicated, deep, and inundated with Kurdish references.
Echo Gods and Silent Mountains, in this reader’s opinion, is the best book ever written on Kurds: unique in both form and content. The book is a proof of Woodcock’s exceptional ability to commiserate with a nation invisible to the rest of the world; he becomes a Kurd, feels the plight, and carries the weight of a century of massacre, of endless pain. Woodcock is a genuine voice.
Coming across writers like Patrick Woodcock who writes for the love of it, regardless of what sells, is heartening. I have come across writers who publish on Kurds without having read enough about the Kurds or have lived in Kurdistan for more than a week. Woodcock spent two years in the heat and dust of Kurdistan, mingled with the Kurds and listened to their stories without trying to make decisions for them.
“Among history’s elaborate/labyrinths of hate/ can purity/perdure/copulate?” Patrick Woodcock.