Balderdash series shines light on WLU literary community

Photo by Emi Zibaei

The Balderdash Reading Series held their first event on the night of Jan. 25, in the Wilfrid Laurier University Robert Langen Art Gallery.

Eager bibliophiles filled the room, excited to hear selected readings from a few of the best modern Canadian authors.

The event was created to fulfill a need in the Laurier literary community.

“There’s a lot of stuff happening at St. Jeromes, but nothing happening at Laurier,” Sanchari Sur said, co-founder and organizer of Balderdash and third-year doctoral student in English and film studies.

St. Jeromes is a university-college at the University of Waterloo, but Sur was specifically referring to The New Quarterly, a literary journal published there with a vision of seeking out and featuring distinctive Canadian voices.

Several authors appearing in the new series have been involved with the magazine.

Sur explained that the readings are a student response to the single term Edna Staebler Writer-in-Residence program organized by professor Tanis MacDonald.

While that program is successful and an exciting way to tie Laurier into the larger Canadian literary community, it only occurs over the course of three months each year and is entirely organized by faculty.

“We wanted something as students,” said Sur.

She felt it was important to connect the Laurier community with the larger Canadian literary world.

The events, made possible by funding from the Laurier Library, are in the newly opened space for the Robert Langen Art Gallery.

The first in the series featured readings by Madhur Anand, a Trillium Award nominated poet and professor of Ecology at the University of Guelph.

“[M]any, if not all, of the poems contain ecological language and/or an ecological concept,” Anand said, explaining how her work at the university plays into her art.

Her first volume of poems, A New Index for Predicting Catastrophes, was released in 2015.

“It’s my attempt at rendering whole all the parts of my life which are often foreign to one another conceptually, geographically, linguistically, ethnically, etc., especially art, science and my Indian origins.”

Following a career of writing scientific articles and co-authoring a textbook, Anand said that she has no stable, specific plans for future projects, but continues to write poetry and is experimenting in prose.

Sarah Tolmie and Jana Omar Elkhatib also performed, reading selections in fiction and poetry from their own portfolios. Each author has had their work featured in issues of The New Quarterly.

The vision for the series is to continue in perpetuity.

The next event is on Feb. 9 and features a reading from Kitchener author Tasneem Jamal.

A former journalist with The Globe and Mail, she has recently released her first novel, Where the Air is Sweet, through Harper Collins Publishers.

Spanning more than 50 years and three generations, the novel dissects cultural identity, filtered through the author’s own unique experiences.

The novel also received positive reviews from both The Toronto Star and The National Post, amongst others.

At another event that is part of the series on Mar. 16, the featured authors will be Phoebe Wang.

Her debut poetry collection, Admission Requirements, will be published by McClellan & Stewart later that month. Another author, Doyali Islam, author of Yusuf and the Lotus Flower, will also be present at the event.

The events run from 7-9 p.m. and free snacks are provided, with a cash bar available.

    Leave a Reply