Here’s Our Mixtape

by Katherena Vermette

Katherena Vermette is a Métis writer of poetry, fiction, and children’s literature. Her first book, North End Love Songs (The Muses’ Company) won the 2013 Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry and is the 2015 selection for On the Same Page, Manitoba’s Book Club. Her work has appeared in magazines and anthologies across the globe. She holds a Master of Fine Arts from the University of British Columbia. Her newest project, The Seven Teaching Stories, is a seven-volume children’s picture book (Highwater Press). She is a proud member of the Indigenous Writers Collective, and is currently working on a new collection of poetry, a novel, and perfecting her moon salutations. When not being a writer or educator, she lives and coordinates arts programs in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The poetry included in Issue 30: Summer 2015 was selected by Katherena Vermette, our Guest Summer Poetry Editor for 2015. Below, she talks about the experience and the quality work represented in this issue.


I think curating and editing poetry might just be my favourite job ever! I felt like I was making a mixtape—like I was back in my old room, burning incense and popping cassettes in and out of my ghetto blaster.

It’s hard to say exactly why I picked these poems, but I can say that each had something that stuck with me. Poetry is so hard to get right, but as a reader, you know it when you hear it. It sticks with you. It echoes after you put the paper down or close your laptop. That is my first test of any poem. I know that sounds vague and oh so “poet-like,” but it’s true.

I did include several selections of Indigenous poetry. I did this for two reasons: the first being, these are the people I know and read, and knew they would send me something stunning. I also included these voices because I don’t think there is enough Indigenous poetry out there, and I use any opportunity I can to put more of our voices into the world.

I do have a deep, intrinsic love for Indigenous poetry. These words are personal and familiar to me, but they are also important to share with everyone. Indigenous art and stories are an integral part of our country’s greater story, and one that needs to be heard and understood by everyone. Poetry is a beautiful way, almost the perfect way, to share this knowledge. The subject matter may look different, but that is only because what we see tends to be different. The motion and action of all poetry is the same—we seek to know and share our worlds with beautiful words. This is what all poetry does, and why, I think, it is so powerful.

So here’s our mixtape: Rosanna Deerchild starts us off with an in-your-face piece that is somehow forceful and gentle at the same time. Randy Lundy writes a ballad so good, I can almost hear him crooning. Scott Nolan is a singer-songwriter turned precision poet. Janet Marie Rogers, Joanne Arnott, Tanis MacDonald, and Lee Maracle are all queens, and if you don’t know them, you should. They have been my teachers since I first found their words. Marlin M. Jenkins is totally new to me but this piece left remnants of itself behind. Likewise with “After Lamb Vindaloo”—there is so much that echoes. Michelle Good shows glory and pain, and “Mr. Red” has such power and image, it will leave you staggering. Last, there’s another newer poet, Monique Woroniak, for whom I think we have to coin the term ‘ally poetry.’

Thank you, merci, and Miigwetch to all of you.

I also want to thank everyone who submitted. I was truly overwhelmed with the response. The downside of these gigs is not being able to fit everything.

 


Katherena Vermette is a Métis writer of poetry, fiction, and children’s literature. Her first book, North End Love Songs (The Muses’ Company) won the 2013 Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry and is the 2015 selection for On the Same Page, Manitoba’s Book Club. Her work has appeared in magazines and anthologies across the globe. She holds a Master of Fine Arts from the University of British Columbia. Her newest project, The Seven Teaching Stories, is a seven-volume children’s picture book (Highwater Press). She is a proud member of the Indigenous Writers Collective, and is currently working on a new collection of poetry, a novel, and perfecting her moon salutations. When not being a writer or educator, she lives and coordinates arts programs in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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