Mount Royal University professor's poetry reaches top of best-seller list

Sharanpal Ruprai's Seva receives high acclaim from the writing community


Sharanpal Ruprai, PhD and Contract Faculty with MRU's Department of General Education, released her first personal volume of poetry on Sept. 7.

It then rose to the top of the Calgary Bestsellers List only two weeks later.

Published as part of Frontenac House's Quartet 2014, which consists of four poetry collections by Alberta-based writers, each work offers unique glimpses into the complications, confusion, culture and customs of individuals, family and community.

Ruprai's Seva features a young Sikh girl growing up in Canada, exploring how her family's ethnicity resulted in a childhood of foreign traditional Punjabi values combined with the conventional normalcy of a middle-class upbringing in Winnipeg.

Seva is a Punjabi word that describes volunteer work or selfless service to God, says Ruprai. Her father spent much of his free time at the local gurdwara (place of worship) doing exactly that. South Asians are one of the largest demographics in Canada. Through her writing, Ruprai hopes to build understanding of the Sikh way of life as well as insight into how displaced families progress in a new land.

Mount Royal Professor Sharanpal Ruprai, PhD, released her first personal volume of poetry on Sept. 7. It then rose to the top of the Calgary Bestsellers List only two weeks later.

"I want to reach the kind of audience that can see the holes and the gaps in the evolution of an immigrant family. How older traditions can live or die depending on the people and their choices," she says.

"It's about seeing the beauty in the generation that kept all of those traditions, but also about moving on at the same time."

Poetry is a way to introduce people to different cultures in their own language, says Ruprai, and her poems are narrative, lyrical descriptions of incidences in time recreated through observation. Her word choice is heavy with cadence, and she suffuses her vignettes through with bits of the delectable Punjabi language, full of satiating sounds.

Micheline Maylor, PhD and professor of English at Mount Royal University, edited Seva as part of the Frontenac Quartet, assisting, she says, by being a sounding board for the author, someone to ask questions of, technical or artistic.

"Seva is a book that is special because it transports me to a place and time that I couldn't experience on my own. It is the world of a Sikh girl between two cultures belonging to both," says Maylor. "The poems Kara, and Basement Bollywood Porn really show what it is like to be between cultures at the coming of age time."It's beautifully stated."

Including five sections based around the five "K"s in Sikhism: kesh, kara, kanga, kaccha and kirpan, Ruprai finds inspiration in moments of interpretation, of memories and reflection.

"Sometimes it's just a word or a phrase that captures my attention and I have to write it down," she says. "There something happening, and I need to do something with it."

Maylor believes that writing well comes from process, and, "People should write if it compels them. If they have something to say, or to express, or can't live without writing."

"I think poetry is all around us. We all grow up with some element of poetry in our lives, whether it be a spiritual book, words or phrases, hymns or children's rhymes," says Ruprai.

Ruprai will be reading from Seva at the upcoming Calgary Wordfest, opening for C.R. Avery on Oct. 15 at the Ironwood Stage.

To purchase Seva, visit Mount Royal's BookStore or Shelf Life Books for your copy.

Oct. 6, 2014 - Michelle Bodnar