Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 17
- Grade: 12
Poetic tales that unfold through the voice of ê-kwêskît, Turn-Around Woman--tales imbued with vital themes of Indigenous experience: culture, language, colonialism, residential schools and more. The poems of The Crooked Good are threaded throughout with names, phrases, and verses in Cree; its personal stories framed within the fireside tales of Rolling Head Woman, who is both nightmare and culture hero. Evocative, moving, and powerful poetry from a master poet.
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.
Excerpt: Crooked Good, The (by (author) Louise Halfe)
ê-kwêskît - TURN-AROUND WOMAN
When I was growing up in the bush, on the hillside,
I watched the sun arrive from the dark, watched her slip
into the dark. I travelled. I didn't know the world back then.
I just travelled. I was afraid
I would never return. I tumbled that hillside
back into myself.
You can tell me
after you hear this story
if my name suits me.
I've yet to figure it out.
In Rib Woman
stories are born.
The Old Man called it psychology. Me,
I just dream it.
These gifted mysterious people of long ago,
kayâs kî-mamâhtâwisiwak iyiniwak,
my mother, Gone-For-Good, would say.
They never died. They are scattered here, there,
everywhere, somewhere. They know the language,
the sleep, the dream, the laws, these singers, these healers,
âtayôhkanak, these ancient story keepers
I, Turn-Around, am not one of them.
I was taught by Old people.
An Indian Man, a White Man.
An Indian Woman, a White Woman.
They worked in lairs, in the full veins of
I sat in their thicket, wailing.
The old ones navigated through my dreams.
Sometimes they dragged, scolded, cajoled,
cheered and celebrated.
I wanted to be with them. Like them.
I am not a saint. I am a crooked good.
My cousins said I was easy, therefore
I've never been a maiden.
I am seventy, but still
I carry my sins. Brothers-in-law
I meet for the first time wipe their hands
as if I am still among the maggots. I didn't
know their women wept when their men
slept in my bed. I am not a saint.
I married Abel, a wide green-eyed man. Fifty years now.
Inside Rib Woman I shook hands with promise.
Promise never forgot, trailed me year after year.
His Big Heavens a morning lake
drowns me in my lair.
I learned how to build Rib Woman
one willow at a time, one skin at a time.
I am only half done. This is part of the story.
I, ê-kwêskît, am a dreamer.
I dream awake. Asleep. On paper.
The Old Man said the universe,
the day, was the story. So,
every day I am born.
The Old White Man taught me
to unfold night visits.
The Old Woman taught me
all of it was real.
The Old White Woman helped me
To cry with the thunder.
The Crooked GoodLouise Halfe’s Cree name is Sky Dancer. In this book she has created a poetic narrative that combines legend and history with current reality. This blend makes a powerful mix. Halfe does not shy away from speaking bluntly about such topics as abuse. She also uses many Cree words as she weaves her complex tale, and includes a three-page glossary of these at the back of the book. Individual pieces could serve as powerful read-alouds or be performed as interpretive pieces for one or more voices.
Halfe served as Saskatchewan’s Poet Laureate in 2006 and 2007. She has won many awards including the Canadian People’s Poet Award. She has been a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Pat Lowther Award.
Caution: Reference is made to drinking and sexual abuse, as well as self-abusive and suicidal situations. Some negative references to religion and the clergy appear in the context of residential school experience.
Source: The Association of Book Publishers of BC. Canadian Aboriginal Books for Schools. 2008-2009.