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Non-classifiable

awâsis – kinky and dishevelled

by (author) Louise Bernice Halfe

Publisher
Brick Books
Initial publish date
Apr 2021
Category
NON-CLASSIFIABLE, LGBT, Canadian
  • eBook

    ISBN
    9781771315494
    Publish Date
    Apr 2021
    List Price
    $11.99

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Description

A gender-fluid trickster character leaps from Cree stories to inhabit this racous and rebellious new work by award-winning poet Louise Bernice Halfe.

There are no pronouns in Cree for gender; awâsis (which means illuminated child) reveals herself through shape-shifting, adopting different genders, exploring the English language with merriment, and sharing his journey of mishaps with humor, mystery, and spirituality. Opening with a joyful and intimate Introduction from Elder Maria Campbell, awâsis – kinky and dishevelled is a force of Indigenous resurgence, resistance, and soul-healing laughter.

If you’ve read Halfe’s previous books, prepared to be surprised by this one. Raging in the dark, uncovering the painful facts wrought on her and her people’s lives by colonialism, racism, religion, and residential schools, she has walked us through raw realities with unabashed courage and intense, precise lyricism. But for her fifth book, another choice presented itself. Would she carve her way with determined ferocity into the still-powerful destructive forces of colonialism, despite Canada’s official, hollow promises to make things better? After a soul-searching Truth and Reconciliation process, the drinking water still hasn’t improved, and Louise began to wonder whether inspiration had deserted her.

Then awâsis showed up—a trickster, teacher, healer, wheeler-dealer, shapeshifter, woman, man, nuisance, inspiration. A Holy Fool with their fly open, speaking Cree, awâsis came to Louise out of the ancient stories of her people, her Elders, from community input (through tears and laughter), from her own full heart and her three-dimensional dreams. Following awâsis’s lead, Louise has flipped her blanket over, revealing a joking, mischievous, unapologetic alter ego—right on time.

“Louise Halfe knows, without question, how to make miyo-iskotêw, a beautiful fire with her kindling of words and moss gathered from a sacred place known only to her, to the Old Ones. These poems, sharp and crackling, are among one of the most beautiful fires I’ve ever sat beside.” —Gregory Scofield, author of Witness, I Am

“Louise makes awâsis out of irreverent sacred text. The darkness enlightens. She uses humor as a scalpel and sometimes as a butcher knife, to cut away, or hack off, our hurts, our pain, our grief and our traumas. In the end we laugh and laugh and laugh.” —Harold R. Johnson, author of Peace and Good Order: The Case for Indigenous Justice in Canada

“This is all about Indigenizing and reconciliation among ourselves. It’s the kind of funny, shake up, poking, smacking and farting we all need while laughing our guts out. It’s beautiful, gentle and loving.” —Maria Campbell, author of Halfbreed (from the Introduction)

“There really isn’t any template for telling stories as experienced from within Indigenous minds. In her book awâsis – kinky and dishevelled, Cree poet Louise Bernice Halfe – Skydancer presents a whole new way to experience story poems. It’s kinda like she writes in English but thinks in Cree. Lovely, revealing, funny, stunning. A whole new way to write!” —Buffy Sainte-Marie

About the author

Louise Halfe has three book publications to her credit. Bear Bones & Feathers was published by Coteau Books in 1994. It received the Canadian Peoples Poet Award, and was a finalist for the Spirit of Saskatchewan Award in that year. Blue Marrow was originally published by McLelland & Stewart in 1998; its revised edition was released by Coteau Books in September 2004. It was a finalist for both the Governor General’s Award for Poetry and the Pat Lowther Award, and for the 1998 Saskatchewan Book of the Year Award and the Saskatchewan Poetry Award. Her most recent work, The Crooked Good, was published in 2007. Louise Bernice Halfe's Cree name is Sky Dancer. She was born on the Saddle Lake Reserve in Two Hills, Alberta in 1953. At the age of seven, she was sent to the Blue Quills Residential School in St. Paul, Alberta. She left residential school of her own accord when she was sixteen, breaking ties with her family and completing her studies at St. Paul's regional high school. It was at this time that she began writing a journal about her life experiences. Halfe made her debut as a poet in Writing the Circle: Native Women of Western Canada, the acclaimed anthology of life-writings by Native women. In 1993 she was awarded third prize in the League of Canadian Poets' national poetry contest and was Saskatchewan’s Poet Laureate for 2005-2006.

Louise Bernice Halfe's profile page

Excerpt: awâsis – kinky and dishevelled (by (author) Louise Bernice Halfe)

Who is awâsis?

awâsis, awâsis. The settler is confused
about your shapeshifting. You can’t decide
if you’re an animal or a human,
or if you are a he or a she.
I am from the iskonikan, a nehiyaw who has seen
talking animals, the roadrunner, big bird, bugs
bunny, projections on television, and movies.

kayâs our people spoke with all Creation.
And all Creation understood each other.
The âtayôhkêwina say animals and humans shapeshifted.
Was the trickster, wîsahkêcâhk, a coyote or a person?

Seizing the mic, wîsahkêcâhk urges the rolling-hips
to the blind-duck dance.
She’ll smoke her cigar at the prayer lodge,
piss at the tail-end of a prized treadmill.

awâsis, I’ve heard you speak. My antennas
strain to listen. Your voice so raspy and soft.
You tell us how your kôhkom
poured skunk oil into your swollen throat.
You fan the sweat rocks,
eagle wing scorching our flesh.
You bring Grandmother Skunk’s medsin to bless us,
while Bear Child heals us with her lard.
awâsis, who am I without you?
You’ve blended into my sagging and wrinkled skin,
watched the owl wisdom of your face
in the skylight of my dreams.
You’ve hidden your laughter
under years of my travel-worn feet.

Remember When

awâsis dreamt she married herself,
with full-moon breasts,
with a phallus and gonads.
When she woke, her body
was a full-grown woman,
her spirit entwined in a warrior’s heart.
She gave birth like any other
bear, grunting, groaning, and pushing
forth a blood-river of land-filled brawls.

awâsis worked like a wolverine,
hefty muscles wearing tattoos.
Her feet a ballet dancer’s desire,
fingers that traced a cello with the lightness
of a butterfly’s wings.
When you see her today
she’s the man on stage, her bulge
straining against her ballet tights.
She’s the woman wearing work boots,
driving a transport loaded with fruit,
going cross-country.
Remember when the two-legged
had three, four, five, six, and
sometimes seven: he, she, he-she,
she-he, she-she, and he-he!!

In nehiyaw country, when people speak
of a man or woman, they refer to them
as he and she. They know that spirit
is neither and is all.

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