KPU grad Franz Seachel returns to campus for a poetry reading

Seachel is this month’s feature for Speak Truth, a monthly open mic event

KPU creative writing alumna Franz Seachel recited her poems and prose last week at Speak Truth, the Kwantlen Poetry Project's open mic event. (Submitted)

KPU creative writing alumna Franz Seachel recited her poems and prose last week at Speak Truth, the Kwantlen Poetry Project’s open mic event. (Submitted)

Poet and multidisciplinary artist Franz Seachel recited her poems and prose on April 20 for Speak Truth, a monthly open mic event hosted by the Kwantlen Poetry Project at the Surrey campus.

Seachel, a KPU creative writing alumna and former organizer for the project, shared pieces from her novel manuscript.

“I’ve always written for myself, and for understanding, clarification, [and] processing,” Seachel says.

Seachel finds reading her work out loud helps with the editing process.

“It’s just to kind of give it [some] air and let it see the world a little.”  

Her writing tackles what it means to be a brown person of colour living in Surrey amongst others who look like her. She also explores family, trauma, and growing up in a Catholic school.

“From my family, there was always a very clear distinction that … ‘You are not like those people,’ to kind of appease this assimilation, an idea of whiteness that everyone’s kind of being pulled towards in this colonial system,” she says. 

Seachel also says her writing is both sad and hopeful to reflect her life and experiences.

Luca Santamaria, vice president of the Kwantlen Creative Writing Guild and creative director of the Kwantlen Poetry Project, took over the project from Seachel when it was online. Now back on-campus, he has noticed a difference in how students interact at Speak Truth readings.

“When I was behind the screen, there [was] this layer of psychic distance between [me] and everybody else,” he says.

“It’s still very small because we’re kind of building back the audience that we had before the pandemic occurred, but there’s a recurring cast of characters that always show up.”

Both Santamaria and Seachel believe attending Speak Truth events allows students to build a sense of community and connection with other writers.

“People [come] to share the deepest parts of themselves through poetry,” Santamaria says. “It can be a very vulnerable experience, and I don’t think that’s something you get at most community gatherings.”

Apart from sharing her writing at spoken-word events like Speak Truth, Seachel works on other creative projects. She founded Enable: Arts Society after graduating, a non-profit that supports local and collaborative art projects created by marginalized and emerging voices.

Seachel created the organization after recognizing the difficulties of becoming a professional artist without publishing or performing experience. Enable also helps artists gain appropriate mentorships, an area Seachel struggled with since she didn’t have non-white mentors to help with identity-based work.

“After graduation, I had to find other people and other mentorships to work with and learn from,” she says. 

“That all costs money and it’s hard to get that money unless you’re working another job. And then if you’re working another job, maybe you don’t have time for your artistic practice or you’re just too tired.”

Seachel, along with Enable artists Alyssa Amarshi and Anjalica Solomon, have an exhibition with 5X Fest called Masi Medicine. The digital installations, which combine poetry, dance, and music, are displayed at the Surrey Art Gallery until June 18.

Seachel also makes jewelry and other accessories for River Organ Collective, an Enable project she started with her friends. They are currently working on a tote bag that will combine Seachel’s poetry with her friend’s drawings.

Seachel believes creatives should attend art events and gatherings to create friendships with people who have similar interests.

“If you’re trying to pursue a creative career, [making these connections] will expedite it so much,”  she says. “It will be the catalyst — being around other creatives, seeing what they’re doing, [and] being inspired.”

To learn about future events the Kwantlen Poetry Project is hosting, visit their Instagram page @Kwantlenpoetryproject.