Tanis MacDonald's Reading Recommendation:
I am currently reading an absorbing memoir in which a black scholar takes up the work of tracing her ancestors: Sonja Boon’s What The Oceans Remember: Searching for Belonging and Home (WLUP 2019). In a global search, Boon documents her investigation through city histories, large and small archives, neglected cemeteries, and a lot of family stories that take her from St. John’s, Newfoundland, to The Hague in the Netherlands to Paramaribo in Suriname. Boon’s is a complex task regarding whose histories are recorded, and how; her inquiry goes deep, and the book’s invitation to accompany her on the journey is irresistible. The book’s balance between storytelling and archival detective work is beautifully done.
I’m a big fan of re-reading, especially the dense language of poetry. This work-from-home shelter-in-place spring, I re-read filmmaker and writer Sylvia D. Hamilton’s And I Alone Escaped to Tell You, (Gaspereau 2014), a blend of documentary and lyric poems about black lives in Canada. In the first section, Hamilton works with historical documents to voice the black people living in, or making their way to, the Beechville community in Nova Scotia, from 1769 to 1829. In the following sections, she examines a young black woman’s life in Canada circa 1960-1982 and an older woman’s travel experiences in the 2000s. Hamilton’s close look at the language of escape and refusal, as well as at the toxic longevity of racist terms and attitudes, make these “postcards home” urgent and incisive; her multi-part far-ranging piece “Excavation” was one of my favourites, as was the final poem, “Solongone.”
Tanis MacDonald lives in Waterloo, Ontario, and is curious. She is most recently the author of Mobile (Book*hug 2019). Tanis MacDonald's poetry has appeared in several issues of The Fiddlehead over the years. Most recently, her poem Other Fish was published in our sold out autumn issue No. 285.