I can’t remember how I found Sky Dancer’s / Lousie Bernice Halfe’s book of poetry The Crooked Good, yet I have enjoyed reading her poetry the past few weeks.
Louise Bernice Halfe is Cree and she is from Two Hills, Alberta, so I have enjoyed reading a local poet. Based on a brief biography from the Banff Centre, Halfe has had a life full of experiences, both good and bad. Perhaps that is why I enjoyed her book of poetry so much: it had something of her real self in each word, both English and Cree words.
The beauty and pain in her poetry is so clear, as seen in the opening of the poem “Listen: To the Story”:
We lived in tents, teepees before the four walls,
before the ugly, broken years.
Ears witnessed this story my mother, aspin,
To hear her reading this poem, forward to 22:55 on this video.
Recently, one of my favourite albums has been Tanya Tagaq’s album Auk/Blood. (Listen here on YouTube for the album.) I have never seen throat singers perform live, but I can imagine it through the words of Halfe. She writes a poem called “wepinason” that describes throat singing:
Two women stare at each other.
Grunts, groans, rippling, meowing and cawing,
they sping these songs:
Of a brook searching. A crane meditating
A frog croaking. A mantis sucking on a fly.
A beaver caught in an iron jaw.
Thunder shuddered. A pair of lovers parted under a treed.
Lightning smiled through one’s heart.
Dew rolled into the woman’s basket.
The Inuit voices bounced, echoed against
their lodge, wet with death.
A deer rubbed her nose into her mate,
pranced into the meadow,
fell as an arrow flew.
Her robe sliced with fluttering hands.
Her bones become the scraper, skinning knife, needles
and flute. Her sinew thread, rawhide bowls, folding boxes,
drums and medicine bags.
Her skin a lodge of sticks and hide. Her hair, a mattress.
Close by, fur-covered men sat drumming.
This I saw, e-kwekit–Turn Around Woman. I am she. (Pg 2)
Throughout the book, her poems are so private. She speaks about her life and the lives of those around her, always connecting to the land and the animals as if the two cannot be separated. She includes stories intertwined with her poetry. This collection of poems is vulnerable and heart-breakingly real. Beauty, truth, fear, anger, love. She writes about it all. From Residential School to picking up a dead moose on the highway. The cultural clash between round dancing and answering a cellphone.
Sky Dancer / Louise Halfe is a voice to be heard.
“I write because I love. I write for the survival of self, my children, my family, my community and for the Earth. I write to help keep our stories, our truths, our language alive” (Sky Dancer / Louise Halfe).
“Tell it to your children,
and let your children tell it to their children,
and their children to the next generation” (Joel 1:3).