Monday, February 8, 2010
Poetry became my way of telling a story about subjects too painful to talk about within my family, community, tribal groups and nation. Poetry gave me license to say out loud everything that others were afraid to tell. An elder told me once that "poetry is a gentle way of talking about painful things."
For years I used my poetry as a tool to help people to heal and never thought to publish it or to use it for any other purpose. As long as the words that came to me could help to open doors for others to get at their feelings and their own words that is all I cared about.
Both my parents and most people of their generation were residential school survivors. My father also spent a significant portion of his adolescence in a TB hospital. When I was a child no one talked about the past, but I grew up in a home full of silence, shame, violence, incest and rage. The way I survived was to keep silent like everyone else, but I always wrote poetry. When I look back on it now I realize I was not as silent as I thought, between the lines the stories are all there. Poetry helped me to find the words to tell,to connect and to resist my tendency to isolate. In the telling I have gained many allies. Poetry is a powerful source of healing.
My father was an orator who could hold the attention of huge groups of people with his passion and commitment to the land. My mother was a storyteller who passed on knowledge about the Kootenai culture and land. Their gift was their ability to speak from the heart where poetry comes from.
Photo by Mona Fertig, Rocksalt launch in Vancouver
Poetics statement published in Rocksalt: An Anthology of Contemporary BC Poetry Edited by Mona Fertig and Harold Rhenish Mother Tongue Publishing 2008
My thanks to Mona Fertig for permission to post photo and excerpt.