In MAIS 752 as I near the end of my Master’s degree, I am allocated a “Creative Assignment” by my professor Dr. Di Brandt.
For some reason, after I posted what I proposed to do for this assignment a monstrous block descended upon me. I struggled. I struggled mightily…kihchi struggled.
And on Monday morning, near tears, I went on a rant and my husband listened patiently – because he knew, he knew all too well, that I had made repeated attempts and that each and every one was a fail. And I was beginning to feel like a fail(ure).
I missed my old studio for the first time since we moved here. I couldn’t find what I needed and I began to doubt who I was.
It was compassion fatigue all over again.
And still, I couldn’t stop reading. Reading far more than what was required. Far more than was demanded of me. But all the history, all the poetry, all the words (or was it word animals?) were starting to overwhelm me.
And the rant, the venting, opened me up and a little light began to shine. So, I wrote or rather I journaled my frustrations and fears and … well, here you will see that I came up with something.
It was quite an organic process and I journaled on “the book of Faces” (as my friend David refers to it) through the steps. I knew, because as the poem Crow Woman Puzzle states, Crow woman spoke to me in a dream.
Crow Woman Puzzle (rough first draft)
by susanna suchak
November 1, 2016
This not a good poem, but it is a poem, I guess
My mind hurts from thinking, thinking, thinking and
everything is a puzzle, it’s a mess.
Crow Woman spoke to me in a dream
And in the morning a crow flew over me
cawed me awake
I knew it was a sign, it’s a gift, eh?
and then I bought Pemmican Eaters by Marilyn Dumont
Didn’t have to read it, not being on the required reading list and all.
That’s a puzzle too.
I’ve got enough to do.
But I bought it and then I read it and now
my head’s about to explode.
It is all a puzzle
this poetic history
it is all a muddle
kind of a muddle.
When did it start? Who is to say?
Let’s start talking though … today.
Those oniyaws gots to go!
More more more
“Give me land, lots of land, under starry skies above.”∞
Move over love.
Gonna build a Medicine Line.
That’ll be just fine.
Then straight lines of steel to carry supplies.
And we’ll build barns and stores and houses. Let’s buy, buy, guys.
What about the Indians?
They’re no fans.
pick up sticks
was it fair?
No one won
Crow Woman “blood red sun”**
and F. R. Scott
both of them poets with a
Strange school of thought
No Golden Rule
but who went to jail?
Hemas Kla-Lee-Lee-Kla moves his jaw
Until Ottawa gets pretty raw
and here are we
What will come of it?
Amounts to shit.
Yet, Crow Woman says
we just can’t quit.
∞ “Don’t Fence Me In” words and music by Cole Porter
**Cameron, W. B. (1926). The war trail of Big Bear. London: Duckworth. This work was published in three editions 1926–1930, and a revised edition was published in 1950 as Blood Red the Sun. Calgary: Kenway Publishing Co. 1950.
I began drawing crow women. Looking at all kinds of indigenous painting that depicted women and/or crows. Now I began to panic a little because I knew I wouldn’t be submitting on time, but I could stay off the panic and anxiety by just keeping my hand moving. And then some miraculous things happened.
I had written a poem about a week before, “medicine line” and I read it and reread it. I read and reread, “Letter To Sir John A. MacDonald” (hotlink http://muskratmagazine.com/letter-to-sir-john-a-macdonald/ ) by Marilyn Dumont too. And things started to gel.
I remembered an article I read about an interview between Jennifer Andrews of the University of New Brunswick and Marilyn Dumont, called “Among the Word Animals”: A Conversation with Marilyn Dumont. (hotlink: https://journals.lib.unb.ca/index.php/SCL/article/view/12766/13727 )
and the result is 2 poems, I personally wrote, and I must add a big credit to the poem, “the land where she came from” in Marilyn Dumont’s Pemmican Eaters ( hotlink: http://ecwpress.com/products/pemmican-eaters )
I wrote this second poem first, but reworked it quite a bit so it’s actually the second I produced for publication here:
by susanna suchak / Wednesday, October 26, 2016
I was a girl
they called it
they called it
the “49th parallel”
out of school
we called it
kihchi ᑭᐦᒋ §
powerful … medicine
just the same
not really home
kihchi ᑭᐦᒋ powerful / big
kihchi ᑭᐦᒋ / power
had to be mamahtawiyiniw ᒪᒪᐦᑕᐃᐧᔨᓂᐤ Ħ
pihcitahcâhkoweskawew ᐱᐦᒋᑕᐦᒑᐦᑯᐁᐧᐢᑲᐁᐧᐤ / shapeshift ¥
the line where
Doctrine of Discovery.
§ Great, Big,Powerful
¥ spirit helper becomes part of her/his identity (EC)
Ħ a person who performs spiritually powerful acts or magic
As an honouring or homage to the Cree people I have used both Cree syllabics and Roman orthography to use some words from the Cree language. To this end I referred to Nehiyaw Masinahikan, Online Cree Dictionary (http://www.creedictionary.com/ ) I do not speak the language, but as a Canadian I recognize it as one of the original languages of my homeland.
Nia:wen and Chii Miigwetch, Kontiwennenhá:wi
But the real result is a 28″ x 28″ mock-up for a painting/collage/assemblage which I call, sôhkâtisiw. The Cree word sôhkâtisiw ( ᓲᐦᑳᑎᓯᐤ ) means, s/he is strong, s/he is powerful, s/he is sturdy, s/he is mighty and I think it describes the woman in the poem, the land where she came from “cree crow woman”. Surrounding her in the shadow of her crow wings outspread as if in alarm or alertness are several word animals depicting some of the key characters of the time “when it all went wrong”[i]
I hope you have some fun identifying them!
Tomorrow I will post about my process and what I used to create this image.
[i] Dumont, Marilyn. Pemmican Eaters. the land where she came from. 2015. ECW Press. ISBN: 9781770412415