Gibsons, BC — On Saturday, May 1, the shortlist for the 2021 Indigenous Voices Awards was unveiled as part of the virtual Blue Metropolis Literary Festival in Montreal. jaye simpson’s powerful debut collection of poetry, it was never going to be okay (Nightwood Editions, $18.95), was named as one of four finalists in the Published Poetry in English category. simpson’s book was also shortlisted for a 2021 ReLit Award earlier this year.
Described as “a vital artifact of a decolonial future” by Billy-Ray Belcourt, it was never going to be okay explores the intimacies of understanding intergenerational trauma, Indigeneity and queerness, while addressing urban Indigenous diaspora and breaking down the limitations of sexual understanding as a trans woman.
jaye simpson is a Two-Spirit Oji-Cree person of the Buffalo Clan with roots in Sapotaweyak and Skownan Cree Nation who often writes about being queer in the child welfare system, as well as being queer and Indigenous. simpson’s work has been performed at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word (2017) in Peterborough, and in Guelph with the Vancouver Slam Poetry 2018 Team. simpson has recently been named the Vancouver Champion for the Women of the World Poetry Slam and their work has been featured in Poetry Is Dead, This Magazine, PRISM international, SAD Mag, GUTS Magazine and Room. simpson resides on the unceded and ancestral territories of the xwməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), səlilwəta’Ɂɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) First Nations peoples, currently and colonially known as Vancouver, BC.
The Indigenous Voices Awards were established in 2017 to support and nurture the work of Indigenous writers in lands claimed by Canada. Funds for the awards were raised initially through crowd-funded campaigns. While an initial fundraising goal of $10,000 to support emerging Indigenous writers was set, the grass-roots initiatives raised $116,565 in four months. These monies have since been supplemented by further donations from various groups and individuals.
The Indigenous Voices Awards are presented in nine categories and aim to support Indigenous literary production in its diversity and complexity. The awards honour the sovereignty of Indigenous creative voices and reject cultural appropriation; to be eligible for the Indigenous Voices Awards, authors must be Indigenous and must make a declaration of Indigenous identity.
Other finalists in the Published Poetry in English category are Norma Dunning, for Eskimo Pie: A Poetics of Inuit Identity (Bookland Press); Shalan Joudry, for Waking Ground (Gaspereau Press); and Tyler Pennock, for Bones (Brick Books).
The complete list of shortlisted books in all categories is available at www.indigenousvoicesawards.org. The winners of the 2021 awards will be announced on National Indigenous Peoples Day, June 21, at a virtual gala.
Nightwood Editions is an independent publisher distributed and marketed by Harbour Publishing.