Geomantic Riposte: In the Dog House

Wanda John-Kehewin defines herself as a mixed-blood Cree writer originally from Kehewin, Alberta. Raised on a reservation with only pencils and paper as her creative outlet, she attributes that hard, simple life with opening her imagination to using words to paint pictures of social justice, realism, and love. John-Kehewin uses writing as a therapeutic medium for understanding and responding to the near decimation of Native culture, language, and tradition. Her poems have been widely anthologized and in honour of her stirring communal voice, she was awarded the 2013 World Poetry Empowered Poet Award.

Her first collection In the Dog House combines a long standing style of historical narrative poetry with aspects of the aboriginal oral tradition and is a testament to John-Kehewin’s sweeping force as a storyteller in verse. Here is the collection described in her own words:

In the Dog House has been written for those who are First Nations who will understand pain and loss through forthright honesty. It has also been written for those who wish to understand about the effects of colonization on a personal level, through the perspective of a First Nation woman.  The book contains raw honesty about the loss of culture and finding ways to adapt through reflection and stumbling upon ‘right’ answers. It discusses taboo topics like alcohol addiction, abandonment, religion, sexual abuse and trying to understand it all through the creative writing process and finally giving up the shame and stigma.

In the Dog House by Wanda John-Kehewin (Talonbooks, 2013, Page 19)

 

I have not seen Mother Thunder

since I abandoned the Alberta plains

in a fight or flight to see and be more

than the confines of colonial walls.

The reservation does not call me home.

Wrapping around me tighter,

these colonial walls

smother me with memories.

But I am reminded of home when my

only friend was Mother Thunder.

  

Geomantic Riposte: Reservation

 

This afternoon       the wind is from a good quarter         Sometimes goof-

ball perception is like that ergot that made men see witches everywhere

back “home”     also more a state of mind      we once were overwhelmed

by seasonal wanderlust        aetiologically i should have a whole system of

rabbit-gods by now       Invisibly it looks good on paper to freeboot the Big

Five and keep in mind that some of us would face annihilation from being

tied to the land         maybe we darwin out into antediluvian heyday, swim

back and live like brown bears again, only with less calendars and photo-

ops     even Neil Young cannot tell me not to chaplin modern industry from

within     in another selfie taken by a personal device put together by little

hands in a far away land     yes, sift through the grain but also go against it