Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 16
- Grade: 11
The voices of Blue Marrow sing out from the past and the present. They are the voices of the Grandmothers, both personal and legendary. They share their wisdom, their lives, their dreams. They proclaim the injustice of colonialism, the violence of proselytism, and the horrors of the residential school system with an honesty that cuts to the marrow. Speaking in both English and Cree, these are voices of hopefulness, strength, and survivance. Blue Marrow is a tribute to the indomitable power of Indigenous women of the past and of the present day.
More than twenty years since its first publication, this critically acclaimed collection is available in a redesigned edition, including an all-new interview with its celebrated author, Louise B. Halfe - Sky Dancer.
About the author
Louise Bernice Halfe was born in Two Hills, Alberta. Her Cree name is Sky Dancer. She was raised on the Saddle Lake Indian Reserve and attended Blue Quills Residential School. Halfe's first published poetry appeared in Writing the Circle: Women of Western Canada. She has since published four collections. Bear Bones & Feathers was published in 1994. It received the Canadian People's Poet Award and was a finalist for the Spirit of Saskatchewan Award. Blue Marrow was published in 1998 and was a finalist for the Governor General's Award for Poetry, Pat Lowther Award, and Saskatchewan Book of the Year Award. The Crooked Good was published in 2007. Her most recent collection, Burning in This Midnight Dream, was published in 2016 and details Halfe's personal response to the Truth and Reconciliation process and how the experiences of residential school children continue to haunt those who survive, and how the effects are passed down for generations. The book won three Saskatchewan Book Awards and the League of Canadian Poets Raymond Souster Award. Halfe has served as poet laureate of Saskatchewan and is widely recognized for weaving Cree language and teachings into her works. A collection of Halfe's work, Sohkeyihta, containing poems written across the expanse of her career, was published by Wilfrid Laurier Press in 2018. Halfe has a Bachelor of Social Work, and received a Honorary Degree of Letters from Wilfrid Laurier University. She currently works with Elders in an organization called Opikinawasowin ("raising our children"). Halfe lives outside of Saskatoon with her husband.
- Short-listed, Governor General's Award for Poetry
Excerpt: Blue Marrow (by (author) Louise Halfe)
I sit by the window
Thick woodsmoke lets the moon shine in.
I take my finger and walk it,
leave mice-size tracks.
The cabin is warm with the smell of bannock.
This long bone I hold
leaves me calloused and cold.
A few months ago I chewed all the meat
and now I've become clever.
I press these words hard
over and over
so I can write.
The little ones with dirty blond hair
look at me with dawn's eyes. I travel with them
into their backyard
where those men of god docked their ships,
took brown wives,
left them in barns and stalls -
horseflies and mosquitos.
Many years have passed.
The moon our only eye,
it travels the silent roar of the lake,
the grand stillness of the rocks.
These blond children of the fur traders
seep through our women
even though they have long remarried
into the dark bark of our grain.
Their grandmother's chant cuts
the air on a dead drum,
"devil's spawn, devil's spawn."
Over the hills the bone climbs
slowly past the metal crosses
pounded in the ditches,
nailed hubcaps shine
in the centre of the holy bones.
Every dirt car rattling over this washboard road,
its braided passengers crossing themselves.
The sign of the cross is never holy.
A little red rose and lonesome charlie
spilled through the mud-stained windows
slur jesus' name.
They pass where someone saw
I see her myself, radiant, her bloody hands,
her bloody heart, her half-starved face.
till my head is a massive throb.
I am in this room.
A mosquito buzzes my arm.
I've smudged with sage.
I think repelling thought
for the mosquito and these icons.
My hunt is without a rifle,
without a net,
filled with the fists of women
of the fur trade.
The orange sunset dies
beneath broken beer bottles,
the birds cackle
in the embers of the dying heat.
I receive a rock in the mail.
Hummingbird sends a wing.
I barricade myself.
My fingers crows,
ravens the computer.
I sip okinîwâpoy.
Notes slip under my door.
I can hardly get past my throat.
Large white splattering
at the House.
Feathered people storming.
"My wound has opened again."
His bones at the cathedral of Santa Domingo
moved four times,
different burial grounds.
In the last move his ashes
spill and are trampled.
Blue MarrowHalfe, through her poetry, takes us on a spiritual journey, telling the often painful story of her people. She speaks of the brutality of the missionaries, fur traders and government agents during European colonization. She tells of the suffering of her relatives who were “cattled onto the reservation” and those who were abused in residential schools and by the Ministry of Indian Affairs. Yet, in many of her poems she celebrates her rich cultural past and finds strength from Cree women, past and present. She says that the grandmothers will provide powerful medicine “which will heal us.” Halfe’s poems sing in chant-like rhythms and provide vivid imagery of the Canadian prairies.
Blue Marrow was nominated for a Governor General’s Award for Poetry in 1998.
Caution: Includes references to violence and abuse.
Source: The Association of Book Publishers of BC. Canadian Aboriginal Books for Schools. 2011-2012.