Migrant experiences expressed through poetry
Indian migrant Sanam Sharma recently caused a stir in the cyber world with some pithy bite-sized poetry that delves into the experiences, hopes, dreams and fears of migrants.
Sanam’s work has become popular on Facebook and he is moving and intriguing readers with his Twitter-length poetry pieces.
His write-ups, columns and poetry has been published across the globe over the last twenty years but his ‘flash poetry’ is starting to make waves.
The tiny poems and stories are mainly published through social media and create an instantly relatable connection that can be shared with the click of a button.
“I’ve always had an interest in writing. My dad taught English literature in India so I grew up with his library and I read all the great poets – Keats, Tennyson, Frost,” Sanam said.
“I used to write things down on small bits of paper and about four years ago my wife said ‘why don’t you put a word document together and send it to some publishers’,” he said.
“So in 2016 I had my first poetry book published called ‘Tamed Words’ and I’m working on my second one.
“I’m not an academic or a literary figure, I just write things and send them to independent journals and publishers.
“For me, it has become a form of expression - and with social media everyone can have a voice.
“I just write about things that tingle me; things that appeal to me in good ways and in bad ways. I write about things that I like and the things that make me angry.
“I don’t sensationalise anything, I just put it out there and sometimes it might complement opinions that prevail at the time or might challenge attitudes that prevail,” Sanam said.
His book is a collection of 36 poems that give a glimpse into the intrinsic migrant experience of straddling two worlds; of the everyday external world of work and family and of the internal world of a vividly remembered homeland.
Sanam’s poems are drenched in the emotional language of journey and longing; and they portray the aspirations, failures, triumphs and ordeals that make up migrant journeys.
Sanam came to Australia in 1999 as a student and studied a Masters of Administration and Information Systems.
“Like a lot of my people in my situation, it was a challenge to find that first job and I drove taxis for a couple of years,” he said.
“Eventually I stumbled into an HR job and that has been my career ever since.”
Sanam now works as an HR Manager for a major Australian company.
He also does commentary on SBS’ Punjabi radio programs and volunteers as a district cricket umpire in Melbourne’s south east where he lives with his wife Jasdeep, and son Arjun.
“I think it’s important for migrants to get involved in the wider community,” Sanam said.
“A lot of Indians who have moved to Australia more recently are really well educated people. But it’s disappointing that they hold back their potential while being daunted by the challenge of getting that first job – it’s a burden that can be overwhelming at times,” he said.
Before moving to Australia to pursue further education, Sanam had already had various articles published in college newspapers and magazines.
“Naturally most of the things I write about now are from a migrant perspective, particularly Indian,” Sanam said.
“My content can be humorous, serious and political. I try to put things into perspective based on my own experiences,” he said.
Sanam drove cabs and did odd jobs to support himself while studying in Melbourne but constantly pursued his creative cravings.
“One night while driving the cab, I was flicking through radio stations and SBS Punjabi came on. I had done a lot of public speaking and drama throughout school so emailed the producer to see if I could get involved with the show,” said Sanam.
After sitting an English and Punjabi exam Sanam became a fill-in broadcaster, which then turned into a weekly one hour segment for four years on Punjabi radio.
Sanam’s passion for writing has always been at the forefront of his creative pursuits though, and he is now a regular contributor to Huffington Post, SBS’ online print platform, and the Indian newspaper Indian Link.
‘Flash poetry is just one of his most recent writing endeavours in a series of ten stories written in about 140 words to throw light on some of the peculiarities of the lives of migrant
“The stories are around how migrants often after years still miss the places they were born and grew up in, their struggles in a new land, ageing parents, growing kids and the like,” Sanam said.
The format of these stories is pulled from Sanam’s years of experience in longer form writing and his ability as a poet.
“My writing has evolved to fit with the realm of social media and the different audiences it attracts,” he said.
“Flash fiction connects with people instantly and they can share that connection by ‘sharing’ it online.
“Though a main reason I started writing short pieces was to keep myself disciplined to write as I travel a lot for work.
“Lately I get most of my writing done while in transit or in hotel rooms, so smaller pieces mean I can still write.
“I write because I feel the need to express myself. And in Australia, as a migrant I feel like I have things to say. I don’t expect people to agree with me but I want to leave something behind for people coming after me,” Sanam said.