Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is a renowned Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg scholar, writer and artist, who has been widely recognized as one of the most compelling Indigenous voices of her generation. Her work breaks open the intersections between politics, story and song-bringing audiences into a rich and layered world of sound, light, and sovereign creativity
Working for over a decade an independent scholar using Nishnaabeg intellectual practices, Leanne has lectured and taught extensively at universities across Canada and has twenty years experience with Indigenous land based education. She holds a PhD from the University of Manitoba, is currently faculty at the Dechinta Centre for Research & Learning in Denendeh (NWT) and a Distinguished Visiting Scholar in the Faculty of Arts at Ryerson University. Leanne’s books are regularly used in courses across Canada and the United States including Dancing on Our Turtle’s Back, The Gift Is in the Making, Lighting the Eighth Fire (editor), This Is An Honour Song (editor with Kiera Ladner) and The Winter We Danced: Voice from the Past, the Future and the Idle No More Movement (Kino-nda-niimi editorial collective).
As a writer, Leanne was named the inaugural RBC Charles Taylor Emerging writer by Thomas King. She has published extensive fiction and poetry in both book and magazine form. Her second book of short stories and poetry, This Accident of Being Lost is a follow up to the acclaimed Islands of Decolonial Love and will be published by the House of Anansi Press in Spring 2017.
Leanne is also a musician combining poetry, storytelling, song writing and performance in collaboration with musicians to create unique spoken songs and soundscapes. Leanne’s second record f(l)light produced by Jonas Bonnetta (Evening Hymns), was released in the fall of 2016 on RPM Records. Leanne is Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg and a member of Alderville First Nation.
This Accident of Being Lost
Leanne Betasamosake Simpson. House of Anansi
This is a stunning collection of poetry, song, and short fiction from Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg author Betasamosake Simpson (Islands of Decolonial Love), the inaugural recipient of the RBC Taylor Emerging Writer Award. These short pieces are darkly humorous, elegantly constructed, and beautifully sorrowful. They include pieces that read like journal entries, science fiction stories, songs, and free-form poems. Regardless of their literary form, these works evoke indigenous heritage connection to the land, and the ways modern indigenous people straddle settler and indigenous worlds. They do not shy away from unflattering descriptions of settlers and settler-indigenous relations, nor do they avoid describing the power imbalance: “Their kids will still be white if they don’t have the kind of beach they want. Our kids won’t be Mississauga if they can’t ever do a single Mississauga thing.” The stories are not bleak, and a wry sense of humor glimmers throughout, walking hand in hand with damaged humanity to create a gentleness that combats the sometimes grim subject matter. Betasamosake Simpson explains in the acknowledgements that she wanted to write “unapologetically and truthfully so that I see myself and my community in these pages,” a feat she absolutely accomplishes. This is a truly creative and heartfelt work, thoroughly modern in tone and timbre.
Gwen Benaway is of Anishinaabe and Métis descent. Her first collection of poetry, Ceremonies for the Dead, was published in 2013 and her second collection of poetry, Passage, was published by Kegedonce Press in Fall 2016. As emerging Two-Spirited Trans poet, she has been described as the spiritual love child of Tomson Highway and Anne Sexton. In 2015, she was the recipient of the inaugural Speaker’s Award for a Young Author and in 2016 she received a Dayne Ogilvie Honour of Distinction for Emerging Queer Authors from the Writer’s Trust of Canada. Her work has been published and anthologized internationally. She and her many vintage dresses can be found on Instagram @gwenbenaway.
In her second collection of poetry, Passage, Gwen Benaway examines what it means to experience violence and speaks to the burden of survival. Traveling to Northern Ontario and across the Great Lakes, Passage is a poetic voyage through divorce, family violence, legacy of colonization, and the affirmation of a new sexuality and gender. Previously published as a man, Passage is the poet’s first collection written as a transwoman. Striking and raw in sparse lines, the collection showcases a vital Two Spirited identity that transects borders of race, gender, and experience. In Passage, the poet seeks to reconcile herself to the land, the history of her ancestors, and her separation from her partner and family by invoking the beauty and power of her ancestral waterways. Building on the legacy of other ground-breaking Indigenous poets like Gregory Scofield and Queer poets like Tim Dlugos, Benaway’s work is deeply personal and devastating in sharp, clear lines. Passage is a book burning with a beautiful intensity and reveals Benaway as one of the most powerful emerging poets writing in Indigenous poetics today.
Gregory Scofield is Red River Métis of Cree, Scottish and European descent whose ancestry can be traced to the fur trade and to the Métis community of Kinesota, Manitoba. He has taught First Nations and Metis Literature and Creative Writing at Brandon University, Emily Carr University of Art & Design, and the Alberta College of Art & Design. He currently holds the position of Assistant Professor in English at Laurentian University where he teaches Creative Writing, and previously served as writer-in-residence at the University of Manitoba, University of Winnipeg and Memorial University. Scofield won the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize in 1994 for his debut collection, The Gathering: Stones for the Medicine Wheel. In addition to several volumes of poetry, Scofield is the author of the memoir, Thunder Through My Veins (1999), and his latest collection of poetry is Witness, I Am (2016). In 2016, The Writers’ Trust of Canada awarded Scofield with the Latner Writers’ Trust Poetry Prize.
Witness, I Am is divided into three gripping sections of new poetry from one of Canada&rsqou;s most recognized poets. The first part of the book, “Dangerous Sound,” contains contemporary themed poems about identity and belonging, undone and rendered into modern sound poetry. “Muskrat Woman,” the middle part of the book, is a breathtaking epic poem that considers the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women through the reimagining and retelling of a sacred Cree creation story. The final section of the book, “Ghost Dance,” raids the autobiographical so often found in Scofield’s poetry, weaving the personal and universal into a tapestry of sharp poetic luminosity. From “Killer,” Scofield eerily slices the dreadful in with the exquisite: “I could, this day of proficient blooms, / take your fingers, / tie them down one by one. This one for the runaway, / this one for the joker, / this one for the sass-talker, / this one for the judge, / this one for the jury. / Oh, I could kill you.”