Poet Sharron Proulx-Turner who sadly passed away in November 2016 wore many hats: she was a Nokomis (storyteller), community worker, mother, aunty, and member of the Métis Nation of Alberta. Her posthumously published collection of poetry,
creole métisse of french canada, me (Kegedonce Press) touches on her experiences as a two-spirited woman and the role of writing in her life. Below we share some words from friend Aruna Srivastava, and an excerpt from creole métisse of french canada, me.
In the foreword to creole métisse of french canada, me, Aruna writes a moving tribute to Sharron. Here are some of her words:
"Our dear mentor, friend, aunty, mother, Nokomis. The months have passed since last November when you said you would like to take us all with you, on your journey, that letting go was the hardest part. I have known you for what feels like forever, since your long silver hair was coiffed stylishly short, grew long into a braid or loose around your face over the years, and then disappeared with your treatments, only to return those past few weeks, in short curls and waves. Perhaps it was a vanity of yours that you covered your head with a cap, a hat, a fedora, a sparkly cancer scarf, and that we found our faces so often reflected back to us in your sunglasses.
I have witnessed your loves and lonelinesses, triumph and despair. I have witnessed the growth of your children into almost middle-age. And your grandchildren grow, too, some already into teens and adulthood. If there is a place of meeting where you are now, I hope it is a place of love and joy, of talk, feasting and peace. And a quiet place to write, by a river.
You were often a person of few words, deliberate in your speech, but also direct, a teller of story-truths, even when they were not always welcome. You were gifted with the ability to challenge us with love, a difficult gift to learn and to craft. I learned so much about truth and how to tell it, from you, about teaching, writing, friendship, advocacy. So many of us still struggling with the demands of this world we still inhabit have learned from your spirit, gentleness, and clarity, and how tenaciously and courageously you worked for all of these, not just for yourself but for others. We knew, at times, how often you felt your courage failed you when it didn’t always show, particularly in the last year of your life, and with illness. You said, so often, how essential it was for you to write about that experience, the strangeness of living with cancer, facing the certainty of death. I am so sorry that this eluded you in the end. But with that same tenacity, you completed this book, and charged many of us with making sure it saw the light of day."
creole métisse of french canada, me is a moving poetic memoir, written in a unique prose-like style without capitalized words. The stories that Sharron unfolds of her experiences invite the reader to understand both her life and Métis experience in Canada. The following is an excerpt by Sharron from this beautiful collection of her poetry:
"I wish I could be that brave. as brave as the big dipper. the great bear there, purring, watching, holding my hand. me looking to the side and down. the words I seek are buried there, under grief. inside the darkness of a cottonwood, inside the seeds of orange berries. the wings of a female mallard in flight, exposing blues and whites and blacks otherwise unseen, like a woman's beauty, often hidden until she looks up, sees the small spaces between the leaves, yellow hearts on the black bark after a fall rain.
something wants to push its way out, from my belly to my heart to the frame of me. a doorframe. a wooden door with windows, an old key that no longer fits. the door to the outside becomes the door to my room, where birds make their way in the early morning light and the wind finds a path through the cracks.
I’m looking, searching my heart for the words, the true words that are buried inside my unruly inner bark. my wood is hard. not hard like something unfriendly, but hard to the seekers of what may be hidden inside, the medicine there."
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Sharron was a writer, Nokomis (storyteller), community worker, mother, aunty, and member of the Métis Nation of Alberta. Her first book, Where the Rivers Join (1995) - a memoir - was a finalist for the Edna Staebler Award for creative non-fiction, and what the auntys say (2002), was a finalist for the Gerald Lampert Prize for poetry.
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Thanks to Patricia at Kegedonce Press for putting together this lovely tribute to Sharron, and for allowing us to share an excerpt from creole métisse of french canada, me.
All Lit Up is produced by the Literary Press Group and LitDistCo. LPG and LitDistCo acknowledge the financial support of the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Ontario Arts Council.