NDN word warrior Marie Annharte Baker's fourth book of poems, Indigena Awry, is her largest and wildest yet. It collects a decade's worth of verse — fifty-nine poems.
noticeably in Winnipeg and Vancouver, but in many other places on
either side of the Medicine Line as well, the poems are a laser-eyed
meander through contested streets filled with racism, classism, and
sexism. Shot through with sex and violence and struggle and sadness and
trauma, her work is always set to detect and confront the delusions of
colonialism and its discontents.
These poems are informed by a
sceptical spirituality. They call for justice for NDNs through the
Permanent Resistance that goes around in cities. This is bruising and
exacting stuff, but Annharte is also one of poetry's best jokers.
In Indigena Awry,
you can find fictitious girl gangs coexisting with real boy ones. NDN
grannies may be found flirting salaciously in some internet chat room.
One might use duct tape to prevent a war. You might be worried that
hand-signalling for a Timbit on an airplane flight will be considered a
Annharte may be seam-walking a singular path but
she is not without allies. In the United States, they could include
Leslie Marmon Silko and Chrystos. In Canada, Beth Brant and Gerry
Gilbert. The jazz inflections of Beat writing are often apparent in her
work. She swings from a poetic madness into a mad poetics. Way under it
all, acting as a deep sort of platform, could be considered the Kenyan
writer Ngugi wa Thiong'o's project of decolonizing one's mind. Both
sketch out an argument that we will not see, feel, or respond correctly
in or to our own lives without doing this, because otherwise we will be
living within a philosophical myopia generated by a bad fiction.
While Indigena Awry
is written for NDN persons, it is highly recommended for truth-seekers
of every nature and anarchs of word and spirit. In an Annharte poem you
might lose your way only to find what's important.