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Above: Kuldip Gill holds a picture of her parents, in this photo taken in 2007. Her family was the first Sikh family to settle in Mission, British Columbia.


Canada Loses Accomplished Poet & Academic:
Kuldip Kaur Gill



Remembered as a gracious and elegant woman who was passionate about life, Dr. Kuldip Kaur Gill died May 10 in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada, at the age of 75.

The first writer-in-residence at the University of the Fraser Valley in 2006, Kuldip didn't become a "serious writer" until 1997, after she had completed a career in B.C.'s resource sector and earned a PhD in anthropology.

A life-long scholar, she was smitten at an early age by what the world could teach her.

"My first schooling was watching the teacher write letters on a slate, as I copied them in the sand in India, and I've been fascinated with learning ever since," she recalled in a 2005 interview.

That year, the University of the Fraser Valley bestowed her with an honorary Doctor of Letters degree, in recognition of her academic work as a social anthropologist, her extensive community work and growing literary career.

In an online tribute, her friends and colleagues speak of her talents and her generosity in sharing her time to support others.

"Her passing leaves a huge hole in many communities. I will deeply miss her grace, that gorgeous head of white hair, her generosity, her unending encouragement for other poets and her passion for everything she did, including poetry," said Kate Braid, a UBC creative writing professor.

Kuldip was born February 18, 1934 in Faridkot district, Punjab, to Bhagwant Kaur Gill and Indar Singh Gill. In 1939, the family sailed on the Empress of Japan to B.C. They settled in the city of Mission, where her father worked in the lumber industry.

Kuldip graduated from the old Mission High School in 1952, and worked in the forestry and mining sectors for 20 years, before returning to academia.

She began her studies at Langara College as a part-time student, and completed her PhD in anthropology at the University of British Columbia in 1988, examining health care practices of the women of the Indian diaspora in Fiji, studying their communities and helping to set up a hospital auxiliary there.

Later, she used her skills and education to advocate for immigrant and minority women for many years.

"I have always combined my academic work with community development work, and once I got my PhD, used it to influence people - as a catalyst for change, especially in the area of multiculturalism and diversity."

She was an active volunteer, a member on many boards, taught at the University of British Columbia, the University of the Fraser Valley, Simon Fraser University and the Open Learning Agency, led workshops, consulted and shared her expertise.

"I have always believed that we all have a civic duty - the government can't do it all, and if we have the privilege of receiving an education, we must use it to benefit society," Gill had said.

Among Kuldip's accolades is the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal, for service to the community and the country.

After 40 years away, Gill returned to Mission with her husband Jim, and in 1997, she turned her lively intellect to poetry, earning her UBC Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing in 2004.

Her first book, Dharma Rasa, was published in 1999 and won the British Columbia 2000 Book Award for Poetry.

Kuldip's fiction and non-fiction works have been published in a range of publications; she's translated Punjabi poetry into English, and had her works aired on CBC Radio.

She published chapbooks and has pieces in anthologies including Down in the Valley and Red Silk: An Anthology of South Asian Canadian Women Poets.

A work in progress, Valley Sutra, is scheduled for fall publication.

"She was beloved by her students, a mentor to many young writers, a poet and an activist. This irreplaceable one's words and presence remain with all those whose lives she touched. Her presence lives in her words and her poetry," said fellow writer Susan McCaslin.

* * * * * 


Kuldip Gill wrote poems, fiction, reviews and essays. She was the author of the award-winning book of poems, Dharma Rasa (1999) and of a number of limited edition chapbooks. Her poetry and Punjabi translations have been published in journals such as Event, Prism International, BC Studies and The Literary Review of Canada.

Kuldip's poetry has been anthologized and appears in Contemporary Voices of the Eastern World: An Anthology of Poems, W.W. Norton and Co.(2008). She was a Member of Advisory Board for the Journal EVENT, Douglas College, New Westminster, BC. Kuldip Gill was awarded a D.Litt. (Hon.) from the University College of the Fraser Valley (UCFV) in 2005. She was Writer-in-Residence (2006) at UCFV. She had a PhD in Anthropology, and a MFA in Theatre, Film and Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC.

Kuldip Gill was Professor of English at UCFV.


[Courtesy: The Abbotsford-Mission Times]

May 28, 2009


Conversation about this article

1: James McIntosh (Mission, British Columbia, Canada), June 24, 2009, 2:13 PM.

Loved this poem: "Sad" - Skitterings,a twitchy squirrel,/ A flick,a deer's ear./ Ruffles, the skirts of the pine in the wind/ Groaning moans, as two pine trees/ rub against one another and echo/ their groans all night./ Shadows. A call./ I am sad, I don't want to leave.

2: Mandeep (Nawanshahar, India), August 13, 2010, 2:47 AM.

I like this site.

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