Geomantic riposte: 'North End Love Songs'

Winner of the 2013 Governor General’s Literary Award for English-language poetry, Katherena Vermette’s North End Love Songs, contains a beguiling mix of furtive fright and holistic grace in its visit to the North End in Winnipeg, Manitoba. What is particular refreshing about the book is that its spare language invites the reader into intimate spaces, at times touching and in a number of cases, disconcerting. Transcending the more common rhetoric of national politicking, this text reveals firsthand some of the complex struggles with family, identity, and surrounding authoritarianism that continue to haunt aboriginal peoples, amid delicate glimmers of optimism in a prairie neighbourhood. Perhaps this book explores what Louis Zukofsky attributed to the “North American Indian,” use of the verb “to not-be.”

North End Love Songs by Katherena Vermette (The Muses’ Company, 2012, page 65)


the bird is called

cedar wax wing

the anishnaabe name it


and give it

a place of honour

in their stories

though no one can

tell her



Geomantic Riposte: respect


the raven on Gordon road has not quite taken to me

but no longer scolds me    there is less privilege here

less larks   no time for imitating traffic lights     every

thing where there is less is kind of augury        semi-

comical hubris        then some islands or realms get

created    here in this sea-lack   here in this harbour

there is a silent eloquence that floods the ears     i

know that is one way of calling forth what has been

forgotten for ages     

                                   we may show respect for our

respective dead        and then have first pick of the