In her first idiom-shattering book of poetry, Wanda John-Kehewin combines Aboriginal oral tradition with dramatic narrative to address the effects of colonization, alcohol addiction, familial abandonment, religious authority, sexual abuse, and the pain of mourning. She admonishes humanity for its lack of conscience in poems that journey from turmoil of the Gaza Strip to rapidly dissolving ice floes.
About the author
Wanda John-Kehewin (she, her, hers) is a Cree writer who uses her work to understand and respond to the near destruction of First Nations cultures, languages, and traditions. When she first arrived in Vancouver on a Greyhound bus, she was a pregnant nineteen-year-old carrying little more than a bag of chips, a bottle of pop, thirty dollars, and hope. After many years traveling (well, mostly stumbling) along her healing journey, Wanda brings her personal experiences to share with others. Now a published poet and fiction author, she writes to stand in her truth and to share that truth openly. Wanda is the mother of five children, one dog, two cats, and one angelfish, and grandmother to one super-cute grand dog. She calls Coquitlam home until the summertime, when she treks to the Alberta prairies to visit family and learn more about Cree culture and tradition. Visions of the Crow (Dreams, Volume 1) is her debut graphic novel.
Excerpt: In the Dog House (by (author) Wanda John-Kehewin)
I only exist if not for the Alberta storms
that saved me from a life of containment.
I knew without a doubt there was hope
after mother thunder shared her fire and her songs
and painted a picture beyond my yellowing past;
possessing me with poverty and circumstance.
I remember mother thunders untrained beauty
calling me as always from a time before,
before my eyes were open and clear
and my spirit in denial and my mind locked.
I have not seen mother thunder
since I abandoned the Alberta Plains
in a fight and flight to see and be more
than the confines of the colonial walls
that seemed to wrap its arms tighter
smothering me until I should just give.
The reservation does not call me home
But I am reminded of home when my
Only lonely friend was mother thunder.
I miss the crawling lightening
And the day shattering moment
That reveals the stark of night striking light
That is mother thunders child called lightning
who is my friend and calls to me from home
who heightens, lightens and brightens
The exact moment that the rain fingertips
paint my face and I miss calling her name
and feeling her gentle anger ignite my fire.
Mother thunder who makes me dance in the rain
and stirs flashes of light across her cobalt canvas
and drenches me in her tears and benches me in white light
I miss the plains I have abandoned…
In the Dog House
Teardrops hang from barren trees,
sickly grass slouches upon the
earthly bed- defeated, disassociated.
Cold, washed out blue,
flanked by threatening billows,
encircling and encasing the dog house
and the two lives buried within it.
She hunches in fetal pose
in the backside of the dog house.
She counts spiral knotholes,
seizing her breath,
tracing nature’s patterns,
now forced to be a part
of something else
Her something else-
Her somewhere else
She’d rather be.
She traces the knotholes
and counts them over, and over again
and feels a false consolation.
“Yes”, she says to herself, “still 7”
Indifferent splats of rain
rap on the weather battered roof.
Thin arms embrace shivering dog.
Listening for footsteps,
she hopes they are rain beats
and not footsteps.
Bone cold water
oozes through the cracks,
trickling, seeking end.
She can hear the dogs’ life drum
as weary as her own.
Finally, her lost breath returns
They both fall to sleep,
In the safety of the dog house.
John-Kehewin writes with great honesty about living a life in which those taboo subjects ‘like alcohol addiction, abandonment, religion, and sexual abuse,’ interpolate their way into every day’s living. – eclecticruckus
“Her work is brave, brilliant, and relentless. Her voice deserves to be heard.” – Garry Gottfriedson
“Between the body & the utterance is the meaning. Read these poems aloud – as if your life depended upon it – for it does. Wanda John-Kehewin unstops our ears with her unflinching evocation of the “colonial pesticide” now threatening all forms of life.” – Betsy Warland, Breathing the Page – Reading the Act of Writing
“Playful, painful, indignant, compassionate, a new voice emerges into the realms of Canadian poetry. Wanda John-Kehewin is a smart, sharp observer, and an articulate craftswoman. Her poetry shines.” – Joanne Arnott