awâsis – kinky and dishevelled

By Louise B. Halfe – Sky Dancer

awâsis – kinky and dishevelled
  • Currently 0 out of 5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Sign-up or sign-in to rate this book.


A gender-fluid trickster character leaps from Cree stories to inhabit this racous and rebellious new work by award-winning poet Louise Bernice Halfe.

There are no pronouns in Cree for gender; awâsis (which means illuminated child) reveals herself through shape-shifting, adopting ... Read more


Overview

A gender-fluid trickster character leaps from Cree stories to inhabit this racous and rebellious new work by award-winning poet Louise Bernice Halfe.

There are no pronouns in Cree for gender; awâsis (which means illuminated child) reveals herself through shape-shifting, adopting different genders, exploring the English language with merriment, and sharing his journey of mishaps with humor, mystery, and spirituality. Opening with a joyful and intimate Introduction from Elder Maria Campbell, awâsis – kinky and dishevelled is a force of Indigenous resurgence, resistance, and soul-healing laughter.

If you’ve read Halfe’s previous books, prepared to be surprised by this one. Raging in the dark, uncovering the painful facts wrought on her and her people’s lives by colonialism, racism, religion, and residential schools, she has walked us through raw realities with unabashed courage and intense, precise lyricism. But for her fifth book, another choice presented itself. Would she carve her way with determined ferocity into the still-powerful destructive forces of colonialism, despite Canada’s official, hollow promises to make things better? After a soul-searching Truth and Reconciliation process, the drinking water still hasn’t improved, and Louise began to wonder whether inspiration had deserted her.

Then awâsis showed up—a trickster, teacher, healer, wheeler-dealer, shapeshifter, woman, man, nuisance, inspiration. A Holy Fool with their fly open, speaking Cree, awâsis came to Louise out of the ancient stories of her people, her Elders, from community input (through tears and laughter), from her own full heart and her three-dimensional dreams. Following awâsis’s lead, Louise has flipped her blanket over, revealing a joking, mischievous, unapologetic alter ego—right on time.

“Louise Halfe knows, without question, how to make miyo-iskotêw, a beautiful fire with her kindling of words and moss gathered from a sacred place known only to her, to the Old Ones. These poems, sharp and crackling, are among one of the most beautiful fires I’ve ever sat beside. ” —Gregory Scofield, author of Witness, I Am

“Louise makes awâsis out of irreverent sacred text. The darkness enlightens. She uses humor as a scalpel and sometimes as a butcher knife, to cut away, or hack off, our hurts, our pain, our grief and our traumas. In the end we laugh and laugh and laugh. ” —Harold R. Johnson, author of Peace and Good Order: The Case for Indigenous Justice in Canada

“This is all about Indigenizing and reconciliation among ourselves. It’s the kind of funny, shake up, poking, smacking and farting we all need while laughing our guts out. It’s beautiful, gentle and loving. ” —Maria Campbell, author of Halfbreed (from the Introduction)

“There really isn’t any template for telling stories as experienced from within Indigenous minds. In her book awâsis – kinky and dishevelled, Cree poet Louise Bernice Halfe – Skydancer presents a whole new way to experience story poems. It’s kinda like she writes in English but thinks in Cree. Lovely, revealing, funny, stunning. A whole new way to write!” —Buffy Sainte-Marie

Louise B. Halfe – Sky Dancer

Louise Bernice Halfe - Sky Dancer was raised on Saddle Lake Reserve and attended Blue Quills Residential School. Her first book, Bear Bones & Feathers, received the 1996 Milton Acorn People’s Poetry Award and was a finalist for the Spirit of Saskatchewan Award, the Pat Lowther Award, and the Gerald Lampert Award. Blue Marrow was a finalist for the 1998 Governor General’s Award for Poetry, and her fourth book, Burning in This Midnight Dream, won the 2017 Saskatchewan Book Award and the Raymond Souster Award, among numerous other awards. Halfe was Saskatchewan’s Poet Laureate for 2005-2006, was awarded the Latner Writers Trust Award for her body of work in 2017, and was awarded the 2020 Kloppenburg Award for Literary Excellence. She trained at Nechi Institute as a facilitator, has a Bachelor of Social Work, was granted a lifetime membership in the League of Canadian Poets, and has received three honorary doctorates. She currently works with Elders in the organization Opikinawasowin (“raising our children”) and lives near Saskatoon with her husband, Peter.

Excerpt

Who is awâsis?

awâsis, awâsis. The settler is confused
about your shapeshifting. You can’t decide
if you’re an animal or a human,
or if you are a he or a she.
I am from the iskonikan, a nehiyaw who has seen
talking animals, the roadrunner, big bird, bugs
bunny, projections on television, and movies.

kayâs our people spoke with all Creation.
And all Creation understood each other.
The âtayôhkêwina say animals and humans shapeshifted.
Was the trickster, wîsahkêcâhk, a coyote or a person?

Seizing the mic, wîsahkêcâhk urges the rolling-hips
to the blind-duck dance.
She’ll smoke her cigar at the prayer lodge,
piss at the tail-end of a prized treadmill.

awâsis, I’ve heard you speak. My antennas
strain to listen. Your voice so raspy and soft.
You tell us how your kôhkom
poured skunk oil into your swollen throat.
You fan the sweat rocks,
eagle wing scorching our flesh.
You bring Grandmother Skunk’s medsin to bless us,
while Bear Child heals us with her lard.
awâsis, who am I without you?
You’ve blended into my sagging and wrinkled skin,
watched the owl wisdom of your face
in the skylight of my dreams.
You’ve hidden your laughter
under years of my travel-worn feet.

Remember When

awâsis dreamt she married herself,
with full-moon breasts,
with a phallus and gonads.
When she woke, her body
was a full-grown woman,
her spirit entwined in a warrior’s heart.
She gave birth like any other
bear, grunting, groaning, and pushing
forth a blood-river of land-filled brawls.

awâsis worked like a wolverine,
hefty muscles wearing tattoos.
Her feet a ballet dancer’s desire,
fingers that traced a cello with the lightness
of a butterfly’s wings.
When you see her today
she’s the man on stage, her bulge
straining against her ballet tights.
She’s the woman wearing work boots,
driving a transport loaded with fruit,
going cross-country.
Remember when the two-legged
had three, four, five, six, and
sometimes seven: he, she, he-she,
she-he, she-she, and he-he!!

In nehiyaw country, when people speak
of a man or woman, they refer to them
as he and she. They know that spirit
is neither and is all.

Reader Reviews

Tell us what you think!

Sign Up or Sign In to add your review or comment.