Photo: Bookland Press, 2013
The poems in the collection are a reflection of that. They are all over the place, kinda like life. It brings you everywhere and each place is different.
What I most enjoy about this collection of poems and reflections is that, no matter how dark, angry or sad the subject matter, there is always hope and empowerment at the end.
As many Anishinabe artists, Vera doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities of life. Whether it’s sexual abuse, addiction, youth suicide, loneliness, colonialism, or environmental degradation, it appears on the page—and through Vera’s vivid word crafting we explore, sense and feel. But in accessing important aspects of healing, Vera portrays the lightness and laughter of many situations as well. In testament to her genius, she never leaves us despairing but skillfully shifts us to renewal, optimism, and a reminder that (aware or not) ancestors and helper spirits are always there for us.
Some samples from the collection:
“snagging blankets” about life on the pow wow trail. The final lines:
“Teepee crepin is a cultural exchange Inter-tribals A sort of inter-treaty negotiation With a sex clause”
“away for a better life” – deals with the highway of tears
“a quick glance over the shoulder and a promise to come back to visit a door opens, closes and echoes in the forest”
It’s more than the rich visual details that draw me into Vera’s writings. It’s the way she allows me to borrow her eyes to see through the layers into depths of being.
VERA WABEGIJIG INTERVIEW
What inspires you to write?
For inspiration, I surf. There’s a load of places where stories exist like posts and threads on Facebook, blogs, YouTube. And good ol’ fashion books. Or the documentaries, movies, TV series are just a click away on Netflix. The range is quite remarkable. Technology is pretty amazing. It helps me with creative process.
It also provides a platform for connecting with Indigenous artists in so many disciplines and that is pretty rad. There’s lots of art being created. It’s inspiring to see the growth in our communities. Our culture, stories, art, language being expressed in evolving contemporary ways. And the use of art for communication is something that’s been used since ancient times and technology confirms that Indigenous saying: we are all related.
Can you describe your writing process?
Time to process the information. Looking for connections. It seems pretty analytical but I also enjoy learning this way. And part of the process is walking in my neighbourhood. Breathing in fresh air. Lots of meditation. Or more like a letting go of all that information.
A theme eventually emerges. It’s like a dam of ideas and it’s ready to burst. It’s also like a purification ceremony, I puke it all out through my fingers onto the keyboard. I’m not sure if that’s a good metaphor for the process but it does best describe the feeling. And photography helps me kinda like the images really guide the writing.
What is one key idea you’d like readers to take away from Wild Rice Dreams?
Hmm… the idea of exploring expression and using writing as a tool for that expression. The poems in the collection are a reflection of that. They are all over the place, kinda like life. It brings you everywhere and each place is different. And how we experience it and express it going to be different but, we can all relate to it through our emotions, those waters that connect us.
What is your favourite piece in the book?
There’s a few that I favour than all the rest. Ever sad. And here I was taught not to favour anything! In this case though, I think that it’s okay to have favourites. (Fingers crossed). When I do a reading, I enjoy sharing: coyotes in the city, fried egg sandwich, morning coffee ritual, the final frontier. Those I really like—getting into the poem and reading out loud. And they’re a bit longer so it takes a bit more time to read. That helps a lot in readings. I also like the pacing of the poems in the book.
Bio: Vera Wabegijig’s roots come from the Mississauga First Nation and Wikwemikong Unceded Reserve – although never living in either community, she has lived in more populated areas with public transportation among many nations. She is a member of the Bear Clan, Tricksters’ Fireball Society, The Sound of My Heart Collective, and also a board member at SAW Video Co-op.