Why Otters (Ashley Hynd) is on Arc’s Shortlist


gizhe-manidoo carved a river
of tears and summer storms
for us to glide along—taught us nibwaakaawin

to breathe in and out together
open our eyes to see each-other zaagi’idiwin

told us otters must hold hands
while sleeping or drift apart minaadendimowin

said we must learn to swim
with the current—taught us dabaadendiziwin

to care for this land qwayakwaadziwin
said we are responsible
for seven generations.

gichi-mookomaan thundered debwewin
down the rapids—left us
wading water. aakwa’ode’ewin

said seven fires will burn
before we see the end of dabaadendiziwin
birch bark canoes breaking
against the shore.

Ashley Hynd is an Indigenous poet of mixed ancestry who lives on the Haldimand Tract. Like many people with mixed heritage her history is unclear; according to the stories in her family, they are of Ojibwa, Cherokee and/or metis decent. Her writing grapples with the erasure of her history and is much an act of reclamation as it is a call of accountability for what has been lost. She is currently a member of the 2018 KWPS Slam Residency and won the 2017 Pacific Spirit Poetry Prize. Her poetry has appeared in Arc Poetry Magazine and Prism International and is forthcoming in Canthius and Room Magazine. When she is not writing she can be found building relationships, tending the land and maintaining the website for Global Youth Volunteer Network (gyvn.ca).

Comments by Rusty Priske

“Otters” is a deceptively simple poem. It combines imagery written in English with the Teachings of the Seven Grandfathers in order to ease a reader in who might not have been previously exposed to the concept. Even the title, and image that goes with it, is an access point into ideas that might be new to some.

NOTE: Arc was in conversation with the poet regarding these comments. Both Arc and the poet are satisfied with how concerns were addressed and appreciated the chance to listen and learn. The comments have been left up in order to give others the opportunity to learn as well.

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