Witness, I Am is divided into three gripping sections of new poetry from one of Canada's most recognized poets. The first part of the book, "Dangerous Sound," contains contemporary themed poems about identity and belonging, undone and rendered into modern sound poetry. "Muskrat Woman," the middle part of the book, is a breathtaking epic poem that considers the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women through the reimagining and retelling of a sacred Cree creation story. The final section of the book, "Ghost Dance," raids the autobiographical so often found in Scofield's poetry, weaving the personal and universal into a tapestry of sharp poetic luminosity. From "Killer," Scofield eerily slices the dreadful in with the exquisite: "I could, this day of proficient blooms, / take your fingers, / tie them down one by one. This one for the runaway, / this one for the joker, / this one for the sass-talker, / this one for the judge, / this one for the jury. / Oh, I could kill you."
About the author
Gregory Scofield is one of Canada's leading Aboriginal writers whose five collections of poetry have earned him both a national and international audience. He is known for his unique and dynamic reading style that blends oral storytelling, song, spoken word and the Cree language. His maternal ancestry can be traced back to the fur trade and to the Metis community of Kinosota, Manitoba, which was established in 1828 by the Hudson's Bay Company. His paternal ancestry is Jewish, Polish and German that is reflective of the immigrant experience to Canada at the turn of the century. His poetry and memoir, Thunder Through My Veins (HarperCollins, 1999) is taught at numerous universities and colleges throughout Canada and the U.S., and his work has appeared in many anthologies. He was the subject of a feature length documentary, Singing Home The Bones: A Poet Becomes Himself (The Maystreet Group, 2007) that aired on CHUM TV, BRAVO!, APTN, and the Saskatchewan Television Network. He has served as Writer-in-Residence at the University of Manitoba and Memorial University of Newfoundland. His latest collection, kipocihkan: Poems New & Selected (Nightwood) and the re-publication of I Knew Two Metis Women, along with the companion CD (Gabriel Dumont Institute) will be released in spring 2009. As well, his third collection of poetry, Love Medicine and One Song will be re-released by Kegedonce Press in 2009. He currently lives in Maple Ridge, B.C.
Interesting and thought provokingThe first section was a little slow for me as I kept having to read the English translations for words (which are included next to the test, thankfully), but over all I found this collection to be very thought provoking and interesting. I'm definitely going to read some more of his work.
A side note: this collection, thought not purposely connected, relates well to The Break by Katherena Vermette as they both address the issues of being Metis (not white, not Native) and of missing and murdered indigenous women (though, in The Break, it's more about how systemic racism often means that Natives are ignored). I would also consider pairing it with Katherena Vermette's poetry book North End Love Songs.
Other titles by Gregory Scofield
asowacikanisa: A Guide to Small Métis Bags
Thunder Through My Veins
Conversations about Indigenous Manhood
Ten Canadian Writers in Context
Indigenous Men and Masculinities
Legacies, Identities, Regeneration
A Guide to Northern-Style Métis Moccasins
The Heretic Poems
A Beginner’s Guide to Métis Floral Beadwork
Under god's pale bones
Poems New and Selected