On Tuesday, Jan. 30, upwards of 50 students, staff, and faculty gathered in A225 for the welcome event for the Kuldip Gill writer in residence, Billeh Nickerson. Melissa Walter, UFV’s English department head, opened the event by acknowledging our presence on unceded Stó:l? territory, followed by appreciation for the creation of the Kuldip Gill Writing Fellowship, which allows for UFV to take on a writer in residence from January to April.
Rare January sunlight filtered through the floor-to-ceiling windows as the audience sat in rapture. Nickerson read, beginning with a poem titled “Gonorrhea,” followed by several poems from each of his collections: “Pickle Sundae,” “Group Photograph, South Hampton,” and “The Hockey Chicken.”
Though all his poems were humourous or impactful in their own way, I found two to be more hard-hitting than the rest. The first was “No Pickle,” a poem about a man at McDonald’s who began to cry after receiving pickles on his burger for the third time that week. Of course, the tears are due to something deeper, and the narrator, recognizing this, circles around the counter to comfort the man. The second was “Six Years On,” a narrative of how deeply Billeh misses his friend, who passed suddenly six years prior. The poem cycles through questions and grief, wondering on “what ifs,” before centring on a series of photographs including Billeh’s friend, fragmented memories that hold snapshots of their relationship.
The event concluded with a question period, where the audience received excellent advice from Billeh: “Understand what works for you,” “work smarter, not harder,” and “READ!”
Billeh will be on campus Mondays and Tuesdays until reading break. After reading break, he’ll be around Tuesdays and Wednesdays. He invites everyone to come by for a visit, talk about writing, or even to just come “shoot the shit.”