Transmasculine Ktunaxa poet Smokii Sumac chats with us for ALU DiscoverVerse about his boisterous, touching, and often funny debut collection you are enough: love poems for the end of the world(Kegedonce Press) — which grew from a challenge to write one haiku a day — where he draws inspiration from, three things he'd take with him on his own Choose Your Adventure quest, and more. Read on for that and the titular poem from you are enough, below.
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An Interview with Smokii Sumac
All Lit Up: What did you learn writing you are enough?
Smokii Sumac: I think, for me, there was a difference between the writing the poems (which I did quickly and daily on social media) and compiling/curating the collection that later became the book. I learned, in working on the book, that my work had more depth and connection in it than I had previously thought. I learned how to reconsider my audience, and think about who this book really was for. And, later, I learned how good it can feel when my words reach that audience.
ALU: If you were a character in a Choose Your Own Adventure story, what kind of quest would you be on? What three things would you have with you on your journey?
SS: I feel like, as an Indigenous person, we are on a quest already (I’m thinking of Cherie Dimaline’s book, the Marrow Thieves as I write this). Our quest is not only survival for us, but for future generations, and for all of our relations.
So, if I had to choose three things, I think the things I keep closest to me. They are:
1. Medicines (I know this is more than one thing, but I can’t choose one!)
2. A flint (I was gifted one by an Elder and this reminds me I need to practice using it!)
3. My family. (There’s no way I can get through on my own).
ALU: Where do you draw inspiration from outside of poetry?
SS: My work is deeply grounded in my life experiences. I am ever-inspired by other 2SQ and Indigenous women artists; Joshua Whitehead, Gwen Benaway, Tenille Campbell, Beth Brant. I am inspired by the full moon. I’m inspired by the soft skin of my lover. By the way my Elders pause to find the right words when they talk, and by the laughter of aunties visiting at kitchen tables.
ALU: Help us with a poetry prompt for our readers. Can you come up with a writing prompt for our readers to write their own poetry?
SS: What do you love? Tell me everything about it/them, but remember to keep a little something for yourself.
a handwritten note on my mirror
it’s been there two years
as i’m packing i think of throwing it away it doesn’t seem to have done its job
you are enough you are enough you are enough you are
if i say it ten times really fast
if i sing it to the tune of a ceremony song
if i close my eyes and use my semaa
if i envision my own hands wrapped tightly
if i envision the song as a bandage
if i can just will the bleeding to stop
if i keep trying just keep trying just keep going
if i let the tears fall
if i listen to my own all too familiar wailing
if i go for a walk
if i just breathe in and out and in and out and
if i sit with the tightness in my chest enough times
if i go to therapy like a good ptsd patient
if i envision a stop sign or a cover for the cage that my critic bird lives in
or if i take my vitamins or if i stop drinking coffee or if i open the blinds
or if i recycle or if i stop using plastic all together or if i win another award or if i get my phd
then will it become true?
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Smokii Sumac is a proud member of the Ktunaxa nation. He is a PhD Candidate in Indigenous Studies at Trent University where his research centres on "coming home" stories from a Ktunaxa adoptee and two-spirit perspective. Smokii's work has been published in Write Magazine, and under his former name (he is a man of many names) in Canadian Literature, Aanikoobijigan//Waawaashkeshi and on coffee sleeves as one of the winners of Peterborough's e-city lit's artsweek contest in 2014. He currently shares his time between Nogojiwanong (Peterborough), and Ithaca, NY.
Photo credit: Sweetmoon Photography
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During the month of April, you can buy
you are enough and any of our featured DiscoverVerse books for 20% off! PLUS: FREE shipping!
Play our Choose Your Own Poetry game where YOU are the narrator! Choose from multiple paths on the way to one ultimate goal: visiting your local bookstore to browse poetry. As you move through the story you will find poetry books to collect in your tote bag. There are a total of 36 poetry books to discover across the various paths with 12 possible endings. Which poetry collections will you find on your path?
Playing time: 1-2 minutes per path. To play, click the link below to start the download.
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