Sonia Saikaley

Author and Poet

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A Samurai's Pink House has entered the world!

Posted on 27 May, 2017 at 19:05 Comments comments (0)

After a fabulous launch in Toronto, my new poetry collection “A Samurai’s Pink House” has entered the world! Thanks to those who were able to attend the launch. Your support meant a great deal to me. I would also like to thank my amazing editor Luciana Ricciutelli for her excellent work on my book and for believing in this collection. Big thanks to Renée Knapp, publicist extraordinaire! And to the rest of the gang at Inanna Publications. A special thanks to Val Fullard for the beautiful cover.

If you would like to buy a copy of the book, you can order one from your local bookseller (in Ottawa, I would recommend Octopus Books in the Glebe or Perfect Books on Elgin Street).

The book is also available through my publisher Inanna Publications (https://www.inanna.ca/index.php/catalog/samurais-pink-house/), Amazon.ca (https://www.amazon.ca/Samurais-Pink-House-Sonia-Saikaley/dp/1771333812/ref=sr_1_1/131-8911878-6986765?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1495926521&sr=1-1) and Chapters (https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/a-samurais-pink-house/9781771333818-item.html?ikwsec=Books&ikwidx=0).

Thanks so much everyone for your support on this amazing journey!

To the chirping birds!

Posted on 25 April, 2017 at 5:40 Comments comments (0)

Hi everyone,

Spring is finally upon us! New beginnings, new adventures, new stories…and, of course, the chirping birds! Check out my recently published stories in Rigorous and The Peacock Journal. I am so grateful to the editors of these beautiful journals. Happy Spring! Enjoy!

http://www.rigorous-mag.com/v1i2/sonia-saikaley.html

http://peacockjournal.com/sonia-saikaley-birds-nest/



Spring Thought

Posted on 3 December, 2016 at 9:00 Comments comments (0)

Although we are starting winter in Ottawa, here's some inspiration that spring is only a few months away :) ...this poem is part of my forthcoming poetry collection “A Samurai’s Pink House” with Inanna Publications. Check it out if the spirit moves you. Thanks so much to Every Day Poems for featuring this poem!

 

http://www.everywritersresource.com/poemeveryday/spring-in-northern-japan-by-sonia-saikaley/

The Halloween Poem

Posted on 31 October, 2016 at 6:10 Comments comments (0)

I don’t know when my dream was born. Maybe it was born when I wrote a poem about Halloween. The poem was part of a high school assignment. I can’t remember the title now nor any of the words. There was something about the Monster Mash, I think. Age has erased some of my memories. But I still have that dream.


We all have dreams.


My dream is as big as my big Lebanese family. Perhaps as messy as well like homemade baklava, oozing sweetness and toothaches. My parents, Lebanese immigrants, couldn’t read or write in English. They never told me to dream big, but expressed it in actions by coming to another country and starting all over. Maybe my mother had planted my dream inside of me when we were once one.


I could have died before I arrived in this land of glacial landscapes and towering maple trees. My mom had a difficult pregnancy when she carried me. Somehow the umbilical cord became entangled around my neck. Ah, this momentary lack of oxygen could explain a few things! Seriously, my eldest sisters recounted how the doctors saved me and how my mother was fairly ill afterwards, thus, prompting my father to bring over my maternal grandmother from Lebanon to care for us. Sito wasn’t used to Canadian winters, but she bundled herself up with layer upon layer and managed to find a way to live in a place that was so different from her own home. When my grandmother left, I screamed, “Mama! Mama!” I thought she was my mother and she was leaving me. My sisters said I cried like a baby at the airport. I was only one. Still a baby after all. That memory would end up in an unpublished novel stuffed in an old box in the basement. But my dream didn’t die like I didn’t die that day in the early seventies.


I don’t know how my dream of being a writer was born. Somehow I found my way to words. I remember the picture books in my pediatrician’s waiting room. Curious George was my favourite because my sisters often called me ‘monkey’ when I was growing up (I once climbed trees too!). I admired this adventurous little monkey. Then there was the public library where I roamed. I loved the musty books describing settings that were beyond the life I had in Ottawa. As a child, I read everything from Judy Blume to Mary Shelley, even read my sister’s Jackie Collins books and learned about the birds and bees with those erotic and hot scenes. When I was a teenager, I read Alice Walker, John Steinbeck, Margaret Laurence and J.D. Salinger. I don’t know how my dream of being a writer emerged, but it did. I wrote poems for my friends and we’d have a good laugh at the rhymes I’d come up with. I wish I still had my poem about Halloween. As part of this class assignment, we also had to read the poem out loud. For me, public speaking was a horrific experience, minus scary masks and fake blood. But when it was all over, my classmates clapped and cheered as if I were a rock star. Maybe my dream was born then. Throughout high school, I wrote poems and then after university, I ventured into the world of short stories. I submitted pieces to magazines without any success. Then slowly a poem or story would get published. Time passed. I took writing courses. More time passed. Months turned to years and soon I was on the cusp of turning forty without a book contract. Where was my dream? My dream seemed impossible. There were times I wanted to give up that dream that was as big as my big Lebanese family.


Then one day I saw this literary contest and made a deal with God. “God,” I begged. “I don’t know what to do. Please give me a sign. If I win this contest, I will keep writing. But if I don’t, is it okay if I give up?” My eyes stung with tears. I crossed my face and got up from my knees. Exhausted, I fell into a deep sleep.


The next day before the sun rose, I started writing about a young Lebanese man who had a dream. In pain, in tears, in hope, I wrote. The deadline was in three weeks. Somewhere along the years my dream unravelled. It happened slowly like the fraying of a sweater. My dream was now like cheap fabric. But cheap fabric could be mended, no? I wrote and wrote until I had a novella and met the contest’s deadline. I had no time to proofread. I slipped the manuscript in an envelope and sent it off.


Time passed. Leaves turned a brilliant scarlet. Halloween was a month away. An email appeared in my inbox. It was from a publisher in Toronto. When I read it, my eyes teared. I looked up and thanked God. I had made it.


Here’s to dreams! Happy Halloween, everyone!

 

A Samurai's Pink House

Posted on 29 October, 2016 at 15:45 Comments comments (0)

Several years ago I had the wonderful opportunity to teach English in Japan through the JET Programme. I tried to capture the beauty and mystery of Japan by composing poems which would later become a part of my forthcoming poetry collection "A Samurai's Pink House". Here's a sneak peek of that collection due out in May 2017: 

https://www.amazon.ca/Samurais-Pink-House-Sonia-Saikaley/dp/1771333812/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1477649401&sr=1-2

Thank you to Inanna Publications and the kind people in Japan who made my experience there so memorable! 

To Unplug or not to unplug?

Posted on 21 June, 2016 at 17:50 Comments comments (0)

I recently participated in a Q&A at Howlarium with Jason Howell. Check it out:

http://www.howlarium.com/


Thanks to Jason for this! 

Reading at Octopus Books in Ottawa

Posted on 12 June, 2016 at 10:35 Comments comments (0)

Thanks to everyone who came out to the reading! Your support meant a great deal to me. Thanks so much to Octopus Books, especially Pei-Ju, for hosting a fantastic event and to Inanna Publications for inviting me. It was an honour and pleasure to read with Ann Elizabeth Carson and Anita Kushwaha. Check out their new books “Laundry Lines: A Memoir in Stories and Poems” and “The Escape Artist”. Here are some photos from the event. Enjoy!


From Ruins to Hope

Posted on 1 June, 2016 at 20:40 Comments comments (0)

Check out my review of "Life Class" by Ann Charney. 

https://canadianwritersabroad.com/2016/06/01/from-ruins-to-hope/

Basho and Me

Posted on 7 April, 2016 at 17:45 Comments comments (0)

In celebration of National Poetry Month, I am honoured to have my poem “Modern Matsushima” published in Autumn Sky Poetry Daily. Check it out if the spirit moves you:

 

https://autumnskypoetrydaily.com/2016/04/07/modern-matsushima-by-sonia-saikaley/

This photograph taken in Matsushimi many years ago provided much inspiration for this poem. A photo of me and the great poet Basho! 


The Last One on the Bench

Posted on 9 January, 2016 at 13:55 Comments comments (0)

My mother’s friend passed away a month before the end of 2015. I was in the car with my sisters on my way to a writers round table when I said, “Hey, there’s Mama’s friend!” She was on her way home, I guessed, because she was only a few steps from her door, pushing her walker but not with her usual agility of someone much younger than her ninety-some years. A few days later, I learned that she had died that weekend. A quiet death for a woman who was humble and kind. A life well-lived and a person well-loved. My mother has had a few neighbourhood friends, but over the last ten years or so, most have died or have become ill and had to move into nursing homes. My mother’s friend who recently left this earth was a lovely woman who had a brilliant smile and clever mind. Although she was in her early nineties, she still made it out almost daily and my mother would sometimes meet her for coffee at McDonald’s. Despite the fragility of an advanced age, she somehow found the strength to join the world every day and, what was more remarkable, she did so with a huge grin on her face. I admired this about her: her optimistic nature. We all go through low and high points, but when someone who has lived long, witnessed many things and gone through hardships, I am inspired by this utter optimism even more. How do they keep going? When the world becomes a busy place of deadlines, hills of laundry and dishes, bills and commitments, what helps you get through everything? I would have to say a certain amount of optimism, faith and a circle of people, whether they are family, friends, or complete strangers, who encourage and assist. A simple compliment or kind gesture can push others forward. Have you ever noticed the fatigue in someone and when you have given them a sincere compliment, a beautiful smile overtakes their face and it is almost like the weight of their problems has lifted for a minute or two? My mother’s friend was generous with her compliments. Sure, there are a thousand things to make us wake up in bad moods, but every time I saw my mother’s friend, I knew she was one of those rare people who sees the goodness in others and the possibilities of a new day that are waiting outside your house or apartment door and maybe this was why she made a point of going out daily, even on days that were frigid and grey, and engaging others, strangers and friends alike, because she understood this concept of possibilities and unexpected friendships. Her age did not slow her down or deter her positive nature. Besides going to McDonald’s, my Mom and her friend would get caught up on a bench in front of a downtown church. Another friend or two would join them there and they would talk about the old country, share memories of their youth, chat about Lebanese food and talk about the hardships they faced when they first arrived in Canada and how they somehow managed to carve out new lives in a new country. Of course, there was always that longing for the villages they left decades ago and which would always be engraved in their hearts. I suppose their gatherings on that wooden bench reminded them of their earlier lives, a life before immigration, before husbands, before children. Like friends in a schoolyard gathering, chatting and laughing after a day of school. On my way from work, I would often see my mother and her friends squished together on that bench. I would approach them, say hello and exchange a few words. But then some years ago, one of those ladies died a peaceful death in her apartment and another moved into a retirement home in a different neighbourhood. Since the recent passing of her friend, my Mom sits alone. Now winter has arrived and because of the coldness and sometimes icy conditions, my Mom finds it difficult to get out with her walker. The bench remains vacant. Maybe in the spring with its new beginnings, new friendships will arrive too. Or, at least, the memories of old ones will always fill my thoughts as I pass that very spot.



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