Vera Manuel devoted her life to encouraging others to free ourselves through the use of our personal voices. Telling the truth is disarming, speaking your truth is a generous and healing gift.

Sunday, January 31, 2010


Ah, the secrets are being swept ashore again
In great crashing waves they come
Pressing down upon me
Insinuating themselves
Into every corner of my being.
My body betrays me,
Remembering all those shameful places
Where my mind refuses to go.

I want to die, to drown in it
To be carried away
To a place where nobody
Knows my name
But that cruel ocean won’t claim me
Instead she spits me out naked
Gasping on shore
Gasping for breath
Gasping for life.

I know I cannot hide behind those secrets anymore
I can’t bear this life of loneliness
The isolation that separates me
Because I think I am different
And all those shameful secrets
Are all my doing
I’m ashamed to live
While they, dead or dying,
Carry the horrible secret to their grave
Trusting I will do the same
I am, after all, the dutiful daughter,
The loyal niece,
keeper of the secrets,
the family pride.

I know I must tell them or perish
If I don’t tell them I shall die
But I’d rather cut out my tongue.

A woman without a tongue has no safe place in this world
She is expected to be silent
Devoid of emotion
Kneeling at the feet of men
A woman who knows her place
Is following behind
Lying beneath
Legs spread
Mouth opened
Ready to receive
That insidious embrace
That tongue down the throat
Without protest
Feigning pleasure
Not grief.

No one can crawl inside the heart of a woman without a tongue
A woman without a tongue has to pretend she has no heart.

What I know about life, about love, I could crush you with it.
(I know too much about life
And too little about love)
I have loved people without them ever knowing it
I have loved them from a distant place
On the periphery of their lives
Where I’ve always placed myself
A safe distance away
So I am not a burden
And love can’t get to me
Past that wall of secrets
That surrounds me
I have loved you.

Copyright Vera Manuel

My thanks to Doreen Manuel for permission to share this work.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

World Poetry Lifetime Achievement Award Winner, our beloved Secwepemc-Ktunaxa writer Vera Manuel

Dear World Poetry Members and supporters,

Our beloved World Poetry Lifetime Achievement Award Winner and committee member passed away last Thursday.

We will miss her so much. She had a way of giving hope even in the darkest moments.

We will be doing a radio memorial for her in March and a memorial for her in June when we celebrate First Nations at the VPL.

When I talked to her about our June 21st event: WP Celebrates First Nations, she said: “Don’t worry Ariadne, I will be there. It will be fine.”

I was worried about the date and how to bring everyone together that night.
She will be there that night.

Anyone who would like to participate in either event, let me know.

Creative blessings.
Ariadne and Alejandro
So sorry to hear the world has lost another poet....

How sad, Vera had such a life of pain -- these last years. I kept hoping that medical science would find an answer to her inflammation.
She was wonderful, and will be missed.
best, Bernice
Bernice Lever
I'm sorry to hear about the loss of a good friend and great cultural force, Ariadne.

I will keep you and the Manuel family in my thoughts,
Sorry to hear this..
all my best
Neil ( d.n. simmers)
Hi Ariadne,
I will like to participate in this. Thanks and please pay my condolences to her family.
Ariadne – I am sorry to hear of your loss. Bless you and yours
Lo siento Ariadne y Alejandro y el Mundo de la Poesia., una estrella mas que parte a bello cielo azul y un lugar vacio en el Mundo de La poesía, asi es la vida del que ama la poesía deja este mundo, lleno de huellas y recuerdos que quedan plasmados en un papel, de los bellos momentos que no volveran.
Que en paz descanse.
Hi Ariadne:
Sorry to hear of this loss. I will be happy to participate if you think I should, however I have no first nations ties and am not sure if I need First Nation Ties.

please add my sincerest condolences to Vera Manuel's family. I can still hear her ringing words of betrayal waged against her people, their culture, their very identity.


Dear Ariadne, thank you for the update.

I am so, so sorry to hear about Vera Manuel. What a huge loss!!
Our love and prayers are with Vera's family in these difficult moments.

She will be missed by all the poets, writers and everyone whom she touched with her loving soul and creative heart.

May she rest in peace.
Lucia Gorea

submitted by Ariadne Sawyer


reminisce & farewell

Back in the middle nineties when I was finding my balance in the offerings of a local Aboriginal organization, Urban First Nations in New Westminster, Vera came by to do a seminar on using writing as healing. She spoke so powerfully and tremendously with her lightning-bolts-of-truth (in the form of poetry), I was much eased. I had a few books published, and a long time interest in writing and healing, but that didn’t stop me from being incorrigibly shy. I wondered if I should talk to her, let her know I was a writer, too, and that I loved her poetry, but the time passed and I said nothing.
Our paths crossed again a decade later, through the beautiful STRONG WORDS: A Celebration of Aboriginal Poets & Poetry gathering, Nov 2008, and the launch of ROCKSALT: An Anthology of BC Poets the same autumn. This time we became friends, and took on a few projects together. She introduced me to the World Poetry community of which she was a founding member, and her long-time friend Ariadne Sawyer, and we joined forces with other local indigenous writers, forming the Aboriginal Writers Collective West Coast.
Vera always fills me with a feeling of joy, her poetry so centered and true, her personal beauty both shining and radiant.
Joanne Arnott

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Tribute to Vera Manuel

Vera Manuel passed away last week, leaving an important legacy as writer, poet, playwright, storyteller and as someone dedicated to using her cultural knowledge in the healing of Aboriginal people.

Her play, Strength of Indian Women was staged through-out North American and published as in the anthology Two Plays about Residential Schools (along with Larry Loyie). Her work was honoured with inclusion at the Native American Women Playwrights Program, housed at Maima University, in Oxford, Ohio. Her poetry has appeared in various publications, most recently in ROCKSALT: An Anthology of Contemporary B.C. Poetry.

She was given a Life-time Achievement Award by the World Poetry organization here in Vancouver and the Aboriginal Writer’s Collective will be arranging the publication of her work in the near future. She was most recently Poet-in-Resident with the Aboriginal Media Lab.

She was the daughter of cultural leader Marceline Paul and political leader George Manuel Sr. She is survived by her loving dog U’tspo and 4 loving brothers; Arthur, Richard, George Jr., and Ara; her 4 loving sisters; Emaline, Doreen, Martha and Ida; and her numerous loving nieces and nephews. Predeceased by her Mother, Marceline Paul, Father, George Manuel Sr, and Brother Robert (Bobby) Manuel.

Family statement published in The Georgia Straight.

If you would like to submit stories, poetry, images in celebration of Vera's life and work, these will be gladly accepted for posting on this site at this address