A human being denied water will die of thirst in three days; that same human being submerged in water will drown in three minutes. Conflicting impulses―need and power, love and suffocation, healing and destruction―are at the core of award-winning Métis poet Katherena Vermette’s second collection of poetry, which quietly unfolds with the smouldering, smooth-yet-heady, burning clarity most readily found in a mouthful of good whisky.
In the foreword What the Poets Are Doing: Canadian Poets in Conversation, editor Rob Taylor gives his inspiration for the collection: 2002’s Where the Words Come From: Canadian Poets in Conversation (Nightwood Editions) edited by Tim Bowling. Where Bowling’s editorial vision encompassed an homage to Al Purdy (who died in 2000), Taylor’s honours the work of deceased poet and Tragically Hip singer Gord Downey. The title, What the Poets Are Doing, echoes a lyric from the Tragically Hip song “Poets.”