A Sliver of a Chance

Insights and Observations of a Canadian Immigrant

Poetry - General
138 Pages
Reviewed on 12/14/2020
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Author Biography

Brian Sankarsingh is a Trinidadian-born Canadian immigrant who describes himself as an accidental poet, with a passion for advocacy and a penchant for prose. Arriving in Canada in the 1980s, Brian worked tirelessly to forge a life and career for himself. In so doing, he inadvertently shrouded his love for poetry. Now, with his children all grown up, he has rediscovered his voice.

With renewed vigour and an unapologetic style, Sankarsingh is committed to maddeningly screaming his poetic ponderings from whatever rooftop or soapbox he can find. Wading into controversial topics like systemic racism and politics, Sankarsingh’s readers should think about his poetry as social and political commentary.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite

A Sliver of a Chance: Insights and Observations of a Canadian Immigrant by Brian Sankarsingh is a short collection of poetry of the very highest order. Sankarsingh covers the full gamut of the human condition in his poems, even switching styles from time to time to change things. From politics to racism, colonialism, struggle, all the way through to love, romance, and heartbreak, the poet covers them all with his own unique perspective, style, and insight. Each poem is preceded by a short explanation of the occasion that inspired the poem and often what was driving his emotions at the time. As an immigrant, the poet is drawn to topics that resonate with the immigrant experience. Despite being in Canada, he is fully cognisant of the current political situation in the U.S., and several of his poems, such as Partisans and Guns – Us & Them, address the hyper-partisanship and gun culture of the States. Some of his most powerful works, such as The Slaves Lament and Indentured, address the evils of slavery and colonialism, especially the raping and pillaging of a culture’s resources and peoples to enrich the colonial power, often in the name of religion and/or “civilization”.

I’m not normally a poetry person but A Sliver of a Chance really spoke to me in places on a visceral level. Poet Brian Sankarsingh has a perspective that is fresh and somewhat untainted as an immigrant. His style is flowing, eminently readable, and with an excellent grasp of the power of the written word. As with any collection of poetry, some poems spoke to me more than others but any poem from this wonderful collection could accurately be described as a “headliner”. If I had to choose three personal favorites, though, I would probably go for A Sliver of a Chance which perfectly sums up the mindset of almost anyone who has made the life-changing decision to leave the country of their birth and seek a new life in a strange, foreign land where often they don’t speak the language. One line in particular resonated with me: “But with my dark skin, And your avoiding glance, I never even manage to get, A sliver of a chance.” Playing the Victim Card was a wonderful exposition of the problem of “white privilege” that so many people seem unable to understand or empathize with. I loved this poem. Roller Coaster was a wonderful poem that defines the heights and depths of love. In quoting Shakespeare, the poet mused, “I believe that music is, indeed, the food of love, but poetry is its DNA.” I certainly couldn’t argue with that sentiment. If ever there was a book to open a self-proclaimed Philistine to the beauty of the poetic word, I would say this is that book. This was the first publication of this artist’s work – I hope it will not be his last. A fantastic read.

Asher Syed

A Sliver of a Chance by Brian Sankarsingh is the author's collection of poetry that focuses on the personal experiences of Canada's marginalized communities. While North America's largest country is usually viewed by its neighbors to the south and much of the rest of the world as not having the same issues of systemic racism and disenfranchisement as the United States, Sankarsingh breaks this myth down with poignant and profoundly honest verses, without disregarding the frailty of democracy just below Canada's borders. The poems are divided into six categories, Politics, Racism, Colonialism, Struggle, Love's DNA, and For the Love of Poetry. Each poem is prefaced with an introduction in order to provide additional context.

I was drawn to A Sliver of a Chance by Brian Sankarsingh as I am also a brown immigrant to a country that colonized and subjugated my people, but I still chose England over the States for exactly the same reason many minorities choose the UK, Australia, or Canada: racism is universal but at least most of the racists here don't have guns. Sankarsingh writes with a painful degree of wit that elevates him above the parapet of like-minded poets, using wordplay with intelligence and a marked, direct feeling of purpose that is wholly grasped by a reader. I was particularly touched by the poem The Burden of Colour which says, “But you, oh, animal of mine, With your skin of varying colour, Subjugation is your lot—To be forever in my power.” As the father of a daughter, I also loved the poem For TBS, an ode to a child that is as beautiful as it is promising. This is an excellent anthology and I'm so grateful to have come across it. Very highly recommended.

Amy Raines

A Sliver of a Chance: Insights and Observations of a Canadian Immigrant by Brian Sankarsingh contains some true and moving emotions. From politics, racism, segregation, and slavery to doing everything humanly possible to provide for a family, this book has it all. The fear of the stigmas brought on by anxiety, depression, and mental disorders. The pain and anger of racism that has been taken so lightly that it has become lost on deaf ears or completely misunderstood. Fighting for the right to drop guns or bear arms, losing so many people to COVID-19, and the poor getting poorer while everyone else hoards, complains, and refuses to do the right thing. This poetry book covers centuries-past history to modern-day truths.

Brian Sankarsingh is a poet I would love to see a lot more work from. A Sliver of a Chance: Insights and Observations of a Canadian Immigrant is an amazing work of verbal art that will fill the reader with emotions concerning each topic. The beauty and truth in every single line are made up of a pure emotional commitment to humanity in the way society has treated so many issues with blatant disregard and sometimes disdain. The poetry in this volume is nothing like anything else you will see in other books. The words are not always formed to rhyme perfectly which in turn makes the work perfectly unique and interesting. I love how all of the poems give deep insight into each and every topic covered. From migration in colonial times, slavery, depression, anxiety, and the coronavirus, this poet has covered it all! I recommend this volume to anyone, even those that do not like poetry, and look forward to many more volumes by Sankarsingh!