BY NIDHA KHAN

Poetry is full of life, and it’s everywhere – billboards, catalogs, and even tax reforms can contain ingredients for a poem according to emerging poet, Renu Sikka.

With these ingredients, people can create poetry that “tries to make sense of the world…and mould people’s perception about life and its beauty” by exploring “places, food, culture, identity, flowing rivers, mountains, and voices”. 

Renu never thought of herself as a poet, but now finds that poetry helps her to live a “peaceful life” and draws upon her own life experiences, culture, food, and loved ones for inspiration.

“My mother is a great fan of the renowned Punjabi poet – Amrita Pritam, a woman equally loved in both India and Pakistan, and has been a great source of inspiration for me…growing up, I also read poems from other renowned Indian poets like Sarojini Naidu, Kamala Surayya, Rabindranath Tagore, Mira Bai, and Toru Dutt. They were all trailblazers; it is on their shoulders I stand today as a poet, writer, and an essayist. When I came to NZ, I further developed my interest in poetry through creative writing workshops with our own renowned poets and writers – Renee Liang, Paula Morris, Miriam Bar, and Leilani Tamu”.

To celebrate Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day on the 23rd of August, she’s running a ‘warm up’ poetry workshop for migrant and refugee women and girls on the 17th of August. The workshop will focus on ‘found poetry’ where people find and use words and phrases from sources like news articles, shopping lists, graffiti, and historic documents.

“In this particular workshop, participants will be using treasures like cookbooks, old food magazines, diverse cultural recipes, grocery lists, and more…they’ll express how the tastes of their homes are intricately connected to the stories they have to tell…for most of them, English is not their first language, so to ease them through the process, I’ll be trying out texts from various languages – like Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu – and let them play with the words.”

For those who’d like to dabble in poetry, but are scared they’ll be ‘bad’ at it, Renu explains that “there are no rules for found poetry. Writing this type of poetry takes you on a treasure hunt for wonderful words and phrases. Take a risk if you’re a beginner poet or writer – found poems can be a great place to start…these are borrowed words from text and yet we can create unique poems from them”.

If you’ve been convinced to give poetry a go, you can contact Renu at [email protected] to book your place in her workshop.

NIDHA KHAN is a public health and policy graduate who spends her time writing about the arts, human rights, and social issues. She’s also a lover of puns, a terrible cook, and is on a mission to hug every pug in sight. You can keep up with her antics on Instagram (@nidha01).

Check out more of Nidha’s work:

Art Kit: Fatimah Hossaini

Directing Change: An Interview With Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy

An Interview With Anna Neistat: Part 1

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