there were hidden pieces of bone in your breath | as though you spat out history 

the parts that tried to tame you | until on the anniversary of your becoming 

I found the edges of a poem |  in your smile

Short Bio:

Lishai is an award winning poet, creative consultant and community animator with roots in diasporic oral tradition. She develops and facilitates arts based programming in schools throughout Toronto and is the co-founder of Ink Veins: Young Women's Writing Collective. In 2013, she authored a graphic novel Why Birds and Wolves Don't Trade Stones which is available on Amazon. And her debut album, From Here On, in collaboration with Waleed Abdulhamid, is available on iTunes. She writes with a commitment to joy and integrity.

Artistic Statement: 

I am a poet, a mother and a community storyteller. My stories stretch across continents, gifted to me by my grandmother and the women who came before me. Although I have lived in different countries, I am a daughter of India's diaspora. I have performed and taught workshops all over Canada and given countless keynote presentations on the power of the pen as a tool for community development; Hip Hop and healing and finding my voice through performance poetry. 

I'm deeply passionate about working with youth, which has led me to designing and facilitating spoken word programs in schools throughout Canada. I also co-founded Ink Veins: Young Women's Writing Group. To date, I've worked in over 40 schools and reached thousands of youth from coast to coast through assembly presentations and workshops. In 2012, with Unity Charity, I produced the first Toronto wide youth poetry slam. 

As part of my journey with poetry, from 2010-2012 I was involved in competitive slam poetry, representing Toronto at the Women of the World Poetry Slam in Michigan, The Canadian Individual Poetry Slam in Vancouver and I was on the winning team for the 2012 Canadian Festival of Spoken Word. Although no longer competing, I most recently coached 18 year old poet Rashmi Logo as she represented Canada at the 2014 Women of the World Poetry Slam in Austin. 

I'm thankful to have shared the stage with artists from all over the world, including Andrea Gibson, Warsan Shire and legendary poet and author Sonia Sanchez. 

In 2012, I decided to invest in my craft by completing one residency a year. This decision took me to to the Banff Centre's spoken word program in 2012. In 2013, I completed an interdisciplinary residency called ARISE though Eventual Ashes Performing Arts company, where I embarked on my first theatre piece. In 2014, I completed YEMOYA International Residency, under the helm of critically acclaimed dub poet and monodramatist D'bi Young Anitafrika. And later on that year, I completed the Baul Artist Residency in India. 

My poetry has been featured in four national PSA campaigns:  "I do!" (The Forced Marriage Project), SOUND OFF (Schizophrenia Society of Ontario) and my poem "What Speaks To You?" was featured in a 4-part commercial that aired on 30 Bell Media channels. Most recently I completed a project with The Vancouver Economic Commission, in partnership with Microsoft, on a PSA called "Break Something."

I chose to pursue a career as a storyteller because it is an extension of who I am and because I trust that some stories need to be told, some stories heal and forgive and there are some places you can only travel to by gathering with community, sharing stories, and trusting that people will catch your words and hold them. 

Photography by Anthony Gebrehiwot