York professor’s new book White Album launches tonight

York English Professor Rishma Dunlop has plenty to be excited about. Tonight she’s launching her newest book of poetry, White Album, in a multimedia event at 7pm at the Gladstone Hotel in downtown Toronto.

Dunlop is an award-winning Canadian poet, playwright, essayist and fiction writer. She created White Album in collaboration with Fort Langley, BC painter Suzanne Northcott.

Left: Rishma Dunlop

The pages of White Album present Dunlop’s luminous poems in a memoir about what it means to live in an increasingly fractured and precarious, post-colonial world. The book evokes the sounds of global music, including The Beatles, jazz, rock’ n’ roll, soul, gospel, ghazals and zydeco. White Album blends Dunlop’s poetry with a montage of brilliant images, set to a score of electric, yet lyrical language.

Northcott’s stunning artwork complements Dunlop’s poetry, which charts the life of a young woman born in India in the late 1950s and growing up in Canada during an era of explosive change, both political and cultural. Resonating with some of the most popular and revolutionary music of the last half-century, White Album explores the white noise of history.

Early reviews are in for White Album. Author Shyam Selvadurai (BFA Spec. Hons. ’89) writes: “Rishma Dunlop’s work, in the vein of writers like Wayson Choy and Judy Fong Bates, documents the life of those who were multicultural when Canada was overwhelmingly white and Anglo-Saxon. White Album speaks for that silent generation. In her poetry, Dunlop brings such a knife-like precision of language, such a concentrated clarity of image, to the life documented that it remains seared indelibly into our minds.”

"Each lucid image shines in Rishma Dunlop’s fourth book of poems, White Album. Sometimes mournful, sometimes full of sass, her poems come marbled with song lyrics, and blended both with memories of a suburban girl’s coming of age and coming to grips with her heritage," writes Canadian poet Molly Peacock. "Dunlop achieves her crystalline power by directing a bright white light on all her manifold subjects. Here is a poet who, with muscle, grace and even a discography, fearlessly focuses on the contradictions of her time."

Dunlop’s previous poetry books include: Metropolis, Reading Like a Girl and The Body of My Garden. Books as editor include: White Ink: Poems on Mothers and Motherhood and Red Silk: An Anthology of South Asian Canadian Women Poets. She received the Emily Dickinson Prize for Poetry in 2003 and her radio drama, “The Raj Kumari’s Lullaby,” was commissioned and produced by CBC Radio in 2005. The script is published in the anthology Where is Here?: The Drama of Immigration.

Dunlop is a professor in the Faculty of Education and the Department of English at York. She is also the coordinator of the Creative Writing Program. White Album was launched in Vancouver on Nov. 13, as part of Northcott’s visual arts exhibition, titled “Lucid Ground” at LindaLando Fine Art. 

The Toronto launch for White Album takes place at the Gladstone Hotel, 1214 Queen St. West. The event is free and will feature poetry readings, visual art projections and music performances including 1960s rock’ n’ roll, classical and fusion by artists Zoë Alexis-Abrams, Bryar Gray, D. Alex Meeks, Cory Latkovich, Mark Nimerovski, Jenn Schembri, Adam Brady, Bruce Davidson, Matthew Prebble, Nicole Marchessault, Jeffrey Wilkinson and The Felines, an all-girl garage band from Ottawa. All are welcome to attend. Refreshments will be served and there will be a cash bar.