menu Arc Poetry Magazine

Topic: Anansi Press

“A Gift No NDN” or Anyone Else “Should Waste”: Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s This Accident of Being Lost.

The end is as good a place to start as the beginning; “A gift no NDN should waste.” This final thought left on the page by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson leaves me with one last ironic and fist-clenching observation about Indigenous sovereignty. Through “satire and sarcasm,” eloquence, and a strong Anishinaaabe lens, her “write what you know” storytelling philosophy is full of humour, truth, beauty, and love – and is always political. Decolonizing moments live within every song and story found in This Accident of Being Lost.

Approximations on Target: Steven Heighton’s The Waking Comes Late

Heighton opens his sixth collection with “The Last Sturgeon,” where a man “always walked / a little above his life / not knowing it was / his life, while it waned / from walking-coma / to coma,” introducing a theme of emotional disconnection that runs throughout The Waking Comes Late. In the titular poem, a man laments his knowledge of plant life has come too late to share with his mother, and in “All Rivers Arrive,” a woman weeps over her dying mother, unable to express what she wishes she had while the mother was coherent, before cancer took control. And in two early poems about having a crushed larynx, the speaker considers the things he should have said before his power of speech was imperilled: “I meant to tell you, I / thought I told you / I couldn’t / quite.” In these excellent poems, Heighton shows how technical mastery can merge with acutely relevant subject matter to great effect. In fact, when it comes to language, Heighton is a remarkably efficient poet: I rarely find, as I often do when reading Canadian poetry, myself mentally editing as I go along. Words here are too precious to be left out of place, whether his own or those of others.