Indigenous Poetics in Canada
Editor Neal McLeod
Wilfrid Laurier University Press
I asked to read this book because I fell in love with the title. The idea of tasting a different way of understanding poetic language grabbed my attention. Looking at the table of contents is a little disconcerting with articles entitled Achimo, Edgework: Indigenous Poetics as Re-Placement, Writer-Reader Reciprocity and the Pursuit of Alliance through Indigenous Poetry. The book delighted me with accessible writing and engaging subjects. The heavy sounding titles are a cover for a range of fascinating discussions about language, place and culture. I googled and bookmarked more than one book from the tastes I was offered in the text.
The subject of the book is language, and the thesis is that indigenous poetics deserve to be recognized and discussed based on the texts rather than settler (white) understandings of poetry and form. Authors speak of the importance of place and story. Some use the imagery of pictographs as a way of showing the dimension of time in indigenous story and language. There are interviews with indigenous poets of a range of nations, and a smattering of stories to whet the appetite to hear more.
Along with the discussion of language and poetry, there is the inevitable political reality of colonialism and how to respond to it. The politics are not ignored, but they aren’t allowed to overwhelm the discussion. Rather they become another layer on the stories that are being told. It is important to note that the stories are not myth stories as we are used to reading and dissecting in English Literature courses. The stories are living stories of living nations. If we are ever going to learn to live as neighbours, we need to learn to hear these stories.
I highly recommend this book for any who love language or have in interest in indigenous culture.