"Creation and Survival" by Brandi Bird
Written by Brandi Bird, author of The All + Flesh
As a child, I read and wrote with a force I’ve been told felt compulsive to the people around me. I loved books and tried to sketch out a version of myself on the page that felt larger than life. I wrote poetry and stories where I was the central figure, where I stood strong and steadfast in the foreground. But suddenly, as a teenager, I stopped writing. There was a voice in my head telling me there was no space for Indigenous people in everyday life, never mind in the writing world. I was surviving; creation was the last thing on my mind.
It wasn’t until I started reading poetry again in my mid-twenties that I found I was imagining myself in moments of truth and beauty. I ate up writing by Indigenous poets and opened my eyes to new forms for us to exist in. I started writing my own poetry, but I couldn’t have done that without securing my safety in the everyday world. I was housing insecure for much of my adolescene. I stopped writing because I wasn’t safe or because I knew my safety could be taken away from me at any moment. This Indigenous History Month, I want to recognize all the Indigenous people out there who can’t create or who create under duress because they’re focused on their survival. I want us all, Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, to focus on building a world where we do more than surviving. Poetry has been a place of refuge for me and I hope it can be for other Indigenous people as well but I know survival comes first. This is some of the poetry that has helped me survive in this world.
Liz Howard’s Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent: This book inspired me to start writing again as an adult and it’s still the book I return to when I need a lesson in what poetry can do. The way Howard uses language shocked me out of the fear I had felt for years. Howard’s language keeps me from complacency and uses the uncanny, dreams, and memory to create a landscape that confronts the reader and demands attention.
Black Belt Eagle Scout’s The Land, The Water, The Sky: I have often heard people say they don’t “understand” or even like poetry but I think people forget that music is a kind of poetry too. Black Belt Eagle Scout’s album The Land, The Water, The Sky is proof of poetry’s power. This album moves you through dreamy soundscapes that are rooted in our connection to the land as human beings. These are songs that you feel in your body as you stand and watch the sunset. They are songs full of hope for tomorrow.
Selina Boan’s Undoing Hours: I write poetry in response to Selina Boan’s work. She makes the landscape of poetry better and that’s because her poems feel like a strong heartbeat—vital, rhythmic, and alive. She writes not just what is beautiful but what is true and that’s something I aspire to do in my work every day.
Emily Riddle’s The Big Melt: The Big Melt taught and teaches me how to be a good relation to my kin, something I’m always trying to grow within myself. Riddle’s poems are singularly voiced and assured in her space as a êhiyaw matriarch. She is a teacher and an artist, two roles that have been undervalued due to the legacy of colonialism in Canada. Her poetry takes the complicated, messy facets of life and weaves them together to create wonder—for the land, for the body, and for our relations.
jaye simpson’s it was never going to be okay: What has me returning to jaye simpson’s it was never going to be okay is the sonic quality of her poetry. I’m often stopped by something sumptuous as a pomegranate seed in her work and yet her attention to form and line grounds me on the page. To experience the joy and pain in these poems is to be let into another world in which I trust simpson to lead me through.
Molly Cross-Blanchard’s Exhibitionist: This book is tender with its edge. It’s so terrifyingly and unapologetically human which means it’s honest in the emotions it’s written with. Cross-Blanchard nods her head at you and takes pride in the raucousness of the body and doesn’t let you turn your head away in embarrassment. Enjoy your body and your life. Enjoy this book!
BRANDI BIRD is an Indigiqueer Saulteaux, Cree, and Métis writer and editor from Treaty 1 territory. They currently live and learn on the land of the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, and Musqueam peoples. Bird’s poems have been published in Catapult, The Puritan, Room Magazine, and others. They are a fourth year BFA student at the University of British Columbia, but their heart is always yearning for the prairies.
Learn more about The All + Flesh