It’s hot in Edmonton. Compared to the rest of the world, or even other parts of Canada it’s really
not, but for a prairie kid any temp in the high 20’s and 30’s will send me packing to the backyard
shade, where I’ll lounge around on the grass with my two labradors, Niska and Zaya in an effort
to maintain some semblance of cool. I’m playing the Lucette ‘Deluxe Hotel Room’ album on
repeat and reading Bertrand Bickersteth’s The Response of Weeds, A Misplacement of Black
Poetry on the Prairies and Norma Dunning’s Eskimo Pie: a Poetics of Inuit Identity. It’s my
attempt to frame current movements through the incredible poetry of others. Actually, current’s
not the right word to use. These movements have been happening for a long time, Dr. Dunning
has been speaking about the Edmonton CFL Team changing their name for years, and I’m sure
thinking of it for lifetimes; I’m assuming that Bertrand Bickersteth has been working on his
poetry for decades, if not in actual writing then definitely in thought. Both books are helping me
frame the context of discussion through a medium that I love and want to understand better. Dr.
Dunning brings me into identity politics, use of language, cultural appropriation and the effects
of colonialism on generations and generations of Inuit peoples, displaced from their territories
through her well curated and articulate use of language. Dr. Dunning makes every word count.
Bickersteth reminds me of a history that’s been whitewashed, placated, not meant to be
shared. I’m honoured to be reading his poetic narratives that shape the black experience on the
prairies. I’m also, and continually, pissed off at the colonial education and settler narratives that
have reduced this history or claimed it to be isolated. I feel lucky to have found these poetry
books (shoutout to Glass bookshop). I feel fortunate to read these words. And though I might
not understand or know much, these are books that I'll turn back to regularly to help shape my
own poetic discourse and understanding.
Conor Kerr is a Metis writer living in Edmonton, Alberta. He was the winner of our 2019 poetry contest for his poem A Millenial Love Letter, which appeared in our Spring issue, and more of Conor's work will appear in our forthcoming summer poetry issue.