Penticton poet Neil Surkan publishes work

Penticton columnist Heather Allen takes a look at a local poet, Neil Surkan

Heather Allen writes the column 100-Mile Book Club

Finding the right publisher for a book can be a long and arduous process.

But, on rare occasions a writer is lucky enough to have his talent discovered.

Penticton writer Neil Surkan is one of those fortunate few.

An English student at the University of Victoria, Surkan wrote poetry but hadn’t formally shared his work with anyone.

That was, until the editor of the university’s literary journal chanced upon one of Surkan’s poems pinned on a mutual friend’s wall.

“He left me a frantic note scribbled on a scrap of paper bag about how he thought we should produce a chapbook together,” says Surkan. “It seemed like a long shot.” But eight months later Surkan, and two other student poets, published books under a new publishing venture called Oak Press. Surkan is published with two other UVic poets.

Surkan entitled his collection of 11 poems Snarl. The poem Kindle is from this collection:

Sitting on your floor I imagine

that there is nothing under your blouse,

that you are held up by air, that your skin

really disappears into your sleeves,

and that your mind, your very lovely mind,

is somewhere in the middle, rushing,

a zephyr of light in behind your eyes,

making those very lovely little hairs on your arms   prick up

when I admit that, suddenly, wary

to look at myself and see the same thing —

that there is nothing under this arrangement

I’ve put on, but light and small wind —

I am feeling like a green stem stretching

upward, who no one’s told what’s in the bud.

Surkan is currently teaching in Taipei, Taiwan.

“I’m hoping to eventually explore some other writing avenues, but as things stand right now, I want to try and live as presently in Taipei as possible.”

That said, a poet can rarely stop the flow of new ideas, and Surkan is already musing about Taiwan-inspired poems. The collection is tentatively titled Curio Box — after Taiwanese jewelry boxes that feature hidden drawers and hinges .

“A poem is like a curio box,” he explains. “They are more than one thing at once.”

Whether Surkan’s future poetry is inspired by the loud and busy sights in Taiwan or those closer to home, I’m sure it will reflect this young writer’s fresh point-of-view, and his ear for lyrical language.

Heather Allen is a writer and reader who lives in Penticton.

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