Where in Canada: Land of the Sky

March 30, 2016

Land of the Sky, the title poem of Valiani’s third poetry collection, is inspired by the Rocky Mountains, which inspire even more. Typically higher than 3,050 metres and created by breaks in the earth’s crust and glaciers 65 to 1.65 million years ago, the Rockies have a human history of some 10,000 years. As such, they teach of distance, depth and temporality beyond and hence crucial to human imaginations.

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What:

Land of the Sky (Inanna Publications, 2016)

Who:

Salimah Valiani is a poet born in Calgary with origins in many places. She grew up looking out at the Rocky Mountains just west of her home almost every single day from 1974 to 1988. She is the author of breathing for breadth (2005) and Letter Out: Letter In (2009).

Where in Canada:

"Land of the Sky," the title poem of Valiani’s third poetry collection, is inspired by the Rocky Mountains, which inspire even more. Typically higher than 3,050 metres and created by breaks in the earth’s crust and glaciers 65 to 1.65 million years ago, the Rockies have a human history of some 10,000 years. As such, they teach of distance, depth and temporality beyond and hence crucial to human imaginations. Attempting to reach for the distance, depth and temporality invoked by the Rocky mountains, the poems of this collection recall the distant past, deconstruct the presumed and re-envision: from recalling the Atlantic Slave Trade, to deconstructing time, to re-envisioning public service and the New York Philharmonic. 

If any humans have come close to the reach and teachings of the Rocky Mountains, it would be the first humans of the Rockies, the Ktunaxa (anglicized as ‘Kootenay’) and Secwepemc peoples, who travelled the southern passes to hunt on the prairies. The poems of  Land of the Sky create conversations between Anishnabek and Buddhist philosophies, ancestral wisdom carried by Ugandan park workers, the silent teachings of Bwindi mountain guerrillas and barnswallows of Chernobyl.  

The main ranges of the Rocky Mountains marking the southern boundary between today’s British Columbia and Alberta also mark the continental convergence where the watersheds of the Pacific back onto Atlantic and Arctic sources. Using and forging a language of internationalism, this collection is also a continuation of one of the projects of Valiani’s second poetry collection, Letter Out: Letter In: defining and redefining love as an alternative to solidarity - with the added twist of drawing alternatives to diversity and democracy from the multiplicity of nature. 

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Thank you to Inanna Publications, especially Renee Knapp, for sharing Land of the Sky with us. If you love reading books set around this beautiful country of ours, check out previous Where in Canada posts.


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