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Monday, April 3, 2017

Today's Book of Poetry: Burning In This Midnight Dream - Louise Bernice ...



Louise Bernice Halfe Sky Dancer has published a third volume of poetry, Burning In This Midnight Dream, and it is a burning indictment, a hushed prayer, an angry account.  Burning In This Midnight Dream articulates some of Canada's worst history from the inside looking out.  

These poems are an insider's nightmare memories of Canada's residential schools.

Halfe/Sky Dancer is a quiet poet of considerable reserve yet these poems rumble with thunderous revelations that reverberate off of the page, run up your arms and attack your guilty heart.
nipin nikamowin - summer song

I listened to outrageous laughter
there by the stone-carving shelter
where children painted and listened
to Alex Janvier.
Year after year
on the grounds of Blue Quills
I shared a tent with a friend and we told stories
of those lonely nights and how we preserved
our broken Cree.
I walked, ran, skipped
swore and sang the fourteen miles
from that school all the way to Saddle Lake.
We were told by our guide to meditate, be silent
in our walk. How could we after our voices
where lost in the classrooms of that school?
When I reached my home reserve
the Old Ones received me
and danced me on my blistered feet.
Water, tea, fruit, bannock and deer stew.
What food would heal this wound
bundled against my back?
A child still crying in those long school nights.
I know of a man who still carries his suitcase,
began at six, now sixty years, carrying
those little treasures of home
that was forever gone.
...
Burning In This Midnight Dream is a peat fire of poetry.  You don't see any flames on the surface but you know for certain that you are on hot footing and that all is ablaze underneath, smoldering and determined.

Halfe/Sky Dancer has included several family photos along with the text and this case is the exception that proves the rule about photos and poetry.  These photos are necessary.  The poems work just fine on their own, they are all strong, exude the strength of a brave survivor, but these photos make the stories blood, flesh and bone.  We see the young children in a new and different context, we see them as clearly as the "boy in the striped pajamas," the red-coated lost girl in the opening frames of Steven Spielberg's Shindler's List.  The fine and perfect faces in these photos are calling out through these poems.
Residential School Alumni

An uncle shot his wife
left her lying behind the house
with the rifle at her side.
Their four children peered
behind the curtains.
He was never able to look at anyone.
A lake held him as he froze, standing,
clutching his traps.
One son joined the marines
a mosquito killed him in Vietnam.
In a police chase another son
hit a slough and drowned in his grave.
Their little brother slept in a flaming
house with needles, spoons, heroin and cocaine.
My cousin was left alone.
I remember them.
...
Our morning read here in the Today's book of poetry offices was a little more sombre than usual but that's not to say we didn't enjoy the poems.  We certainly respected them.
Louise Bernice Halfe Sky Dancer wants the Truth and Reconciliation process to succeed.  Burning In This Midnight Dream is an honourable attempt to plow as much truth into the open as the open can bear.

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Two Worlds - Lost children of the Indian Adoption Projects

If you thought that ethnic cleansing was something for the history books, think again. This work tells the stories of Native American Indian adoptees "The Lost Birds" who continue to suffer the effects of successive US and Canadian government policies on adoption; policies that were in force as recently as the 1970's. Many of the contributors still bear the scars of their separation from their ancestral roots. What becomes apparent to the reader is the reality of a racial memory that lives in the DNA of adoptees and calls to them from the past.
The editors have let the contributors tell their own stories of their childhood and search for their blood relatives, allowing the reader to gain a true impression of their personalities. What becomes apparent is that nothing is straightforward; re-assimilation brings its own cultural and emotional problems. Not all of the stories are harrowing or sad; there are a number of heart-warming successes, and not all placements amongst white families had negative consequences. But with whom should the ultimate decision of adoption reside? Government authorities or the Indian people themselves? Read Two Worlds and decide for yourself.

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ADOPTION TRUTH

As the single largest unregulated industry in the United States, adoption is viewed as a benevolent action that results in the formation of “forever families.”
The truth is that it is a very lucrative business with a known sales pitch. With profits last estimated at over $1.44 billion dollars a year, mothers who consider adoption for their babies need to be very aware that all of this promotion clouds the facts and only though independent research can they get an accurate account of what life might be like for both them and their child after signing the adoption paperwork.

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