Writers Festival III - Urban Aboriginal Poets
|Written by Administrator|
|Monday, 27 April 2009 19:00|
On Saturday, the Dusty Owl publishing house hosted a reading of four Aboriginal poets: Mosha Folger and Dorothee Komangapik, both Inuit; Lisa Abel, a young poet from the M'Chigeeng Reserve on Manitoulin Island, now studying journalism at Carleton; and Rob Friday, a First Nations artist and writer.
There was a wide range in the ages and backgrounds of the poets, and in their styles. Folger, young and trim, with a slightly nervous manner, read mainly short poems that he mostly wrote as spoken word pieces. (His "Old Indifferences," about coming across destitute Inuit on Rideau Street in Ottawa, was particularly affecting.)
Komangapik, on the other hand - originally from Germany, but who married an Inuit and has been part of the Inuit community for decades - read longer narrative poems. She deftly and subtly teased out larger truths about community and tradition from examinations of very specific objects and events: an old comb found on the ground, a particularly harsh few weeks spent at her family's summer camp.
Abel, a young woman with a lot of history behind her, spoke with touching honesty and occasional humour about her childhood - adopted at the age of five - taken from her family and community as part of the "'60s Swoop" by Ontario provincial child welfare workers, and placed with a family of Indians (the subcontinental variety) in Sudbury, where she attended French Catholic elementary school. Her work dealt with this disjointed past and her attempt to restore her fractured connection with her home community's culture and traditions.
Friday was the funniest and, therefore, most engaging speaker. He grew up in Temagami, in northern Ontario, with his mother and grandparents. He spent most of his time on stage reading a hilarious but thoughtful short story about growing up among people who hunted and trapped, but being himself more interested in art and fashion: watching "The Carol Burnett Show" while surrounded by his animal pelts his grandfather had set up to dry against the radiators, for example; and dealing with a family Thanksgiving dinner of roast beaver.
Overall, the evening was one of arresting, sometimes painful and troubling images, diverse historical and cultural backgrounds, funny anecdotes, and, most of all, great and inspiring poetry.
Urban event afterglow.
This is a good summation of the Writer Festival Event. It was definitely all of those things (and more). The breadth of the poems and prose presented certainly shows the many gradations of "red" in Canada's Aboriginal community. While Aboriginal peoples cling to a common thread, their experiences are unique to time, place, and circumstance. What is shared by all is the connection to the land and the communities in which all grew up. The recognition of and appreciation for one's culture is a remarkable thing.
|Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 May 2009 22:19|