Poems of Igloolik
Published by Inanna Publications, 2017
Arctic winter sets poems of Igloolik as the sun rises again after months of darkness. The poems weave women’s igloo art, grief for teenage suicides and the immensity of landscape, which underlies the tension between the Elder’s intuition and the outsiders’ science. This book is for those, for whom body, soul and naming are not divisible.
At 20,000 feet
the last of the sun we’ll see for a week
laps along earth’s fiery rim
land / sky
an even split.
Soon we’ll dive
and shadow earth will swallow
I’m told that inside January’s black womb
there is illumination.
How deep is dark?
I ask recalling a darkroom minimalist installation
at Villa Varese in Italy—the sightless silence
of that space
unraveling my identity—
but for now
the white frozen sum of the world
sinks inside twilight’s blue pelt.
A Day on the Land
Blue flames from the propane stove hiss emitting only token heat
in the fish hut we’ve come to after our dogsled adventure across
the white plain. We are what moves out here, plumped like birds warming
air between their feathers: headgear, big in the odd ways
of tasselled hats and balaclavas while our ungloved hands hug
the hot mugs of coffee and chocolate poured from thermoses.
None of this helps my frozen left foot jammed into my Sorel boot.
Unlike our chatter vapourizing in the mist above our heads, I am
peg legged, my foot a gravid flunky, anchored to the floor.
Older women love young men.
Secretly our hearts leap when they smile at us, our fingers
itching to touch the down on their arms—the nape. We like
to flirt, triumphant when we make them laugh with our audacity.
No wonder jokes start flying when Jayson stands in front of me,
coffee cup in one hand yanking his shirt out of his pants with
the other, then ordering me to heat up my frozen foot on his solar plexus.
His stomach, hot as an iron turned on high, makes me gasp:
his face struggles between pride and shyness, blushing
at our racy innuendo—fourteen women, mothers and grand-
mothers mostly wishing they could touch too.
We forget Maria in the shadowy passage,
outside the steamy room—her voice finds just the right lightness
and pipes a singsong into our midst—remember, I can hear you.
Jason’s girlfriend has spoken.
In the Introduction to this deeply felt and deeply perceptive book, Rosemary Clewes writes: “It is for these people – for whom body, soul, and naming are not divisible . . . that I tell my story to you in poems.” Her sentence touches on the three central elements of The Woman Who Went to the Moon: the story of her visit to a place, the people who inhabit that place, and the luminous poetry that conveys the experience. Like the “woman shaman” she invokes, Clewes summons up with deft verbal magic the land and culture of the Innu, pulling her reader into the splendors and the sorrows of the Great Dark with poetic lines as incisive as the “pencilled light” of moonbeam that frames the fishing hut of “Close Up.”
~ John Reibetanz
From an experienced Arctic traveller and accomplished poet these are love poems — tender, sensual, ecstatic — to the land and the people of Canada’s North, a world plunged in winter into a profound darkness alleviated only by the diurnal moon. These are also exquisite poems of sorrow in the face of all that threatens Canada’s North — its inhabitants and its environment. A must read for all those who care.
~ Ruth Roach Pierson
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