Have you ever wondered what reconciliation sounds like? The title poem of Janet Rogers’ fifth poetry collection, Totem Poles & Railroads, powerfully declares “I AM NOT NEXT” from the centre of the page. This bold line—an answer to the question raised on poster boards at vigils and protests on the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls—combines the book’s two thrusts: to reject victim narratives and to make sound. Totem Poles & Railroads is an incisive critique of the overly-simplistic and bureaucratic state of reconciliation, certain forms of activism, and the mainstream presentation of history in Canada.
Maracle’s free verse collection, Talking to the Diaspora, functions as a transcription and song of a life that has spanned decades of personal experience and political activism. The poems modulate from elegy to anger and back again: bones and songs, flutes and drums, are common tropes that run through the poems. There is also dry political irony delivered with cutting wit, as in “Language”: