Burning in This Midnight Dream

By Louise Bernice Halfe

Burning in This Midnight Dream
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A deeply scouring poetic account of the residential school experience, and a deeply important indictment of colonialism in Canada.

Many of the poems in Louise Halfe's Burning in This Midnight Dream were written in response to the grim tide of emotions, memories, dreams and nightmares ... Read more


Overview

A deeply scouring poetic account of the residential school experience, and a deeply important indictment of colonialism in Canada.

Many of the poems in Louise Halfe's Burning in This Midnight Dream were written in response to the grim tide of emotions, memories, dreams and nightmares that arose in her as the Truth and Reconciliation process unfolded. In heart-wrenching detail, Halfe recalls the damage done to her parents, her family, herself. With fearlessly wrought verse, Halfe describes how the experience of the residential schools continues to haunt those who survive, and how the effects pass like a virus from one generation to the next. She asks us to consider the damage done to children taken from their families, to families mourning their children; damage done to entire communities and to ancient cultures.

Halfe's poetic voice soars in this incredibly moving collection as she digs deep to discover the root of her pain. Her images, created from the natural world, reveal the spiritual strength of her culture.

Originally published in 2016 by Coteau Books, Burning in This Midnight Dream won the Indigenous Peoples' Publishing Award, the Rasmussen, Ramussen & Charowsky Indigenous Peoples' Writing Award, the Saskatchewan Arts Board Poetry Award, the League of Canadian Poets' Raymond Souster Award, and the High Plains Book Award for Indigenous Writers. It was also the 2017 WILLA Literacy Award Finalist in Poetry. This new edition includes a new Afterword by Halfe.

"Burning in this Midnight Dream honours the witness of a singular experience, Halfe's experience, that many others of kin and clan experienced. Halfe descends into personal and cultural darkness with the care of a master story-teller and gives story voice to mourning. By giving voice to shame, confusion, injustice Halfe begins to reclaim a history. It is the start of a larger dialogue than what is contained in the pages. " --Raymond Souster Award jury citation

Louise Bernice Halfe

Louise Bernice Halfe, whose Cree name is Sky Dancer, was born in Two Hills, Alberta. She was raised on the Saddle Lake Indian Reserve and attended Blue Quills Residential School. Halfe first published her poetry in Writing the Circle: Women of Western Canada. She has since published four poetry collections, with a fifth to be released in 2021. A retrospective of her work, Sôhkêyihta, was published by Wilfrid Laurier Press in 2018. Blue Marrow was first published in 1998 and was a finalist for the Governor General's Award for Poetry, Pat Lowther Award, and Saskatchewan Book of the Year Award.

Halfe, whose works are well known for their inclusion of Cree language and teachings, served as poet laureate of Saskatchewan, only the second person to do so. She has been awarded three Honourary Degrees of Letters, from Wilfrid Laurier University (2018), the University of Saskatchewan (2019) and Mount Royal University (2021). She works as an Elder at the University of Saskatchewan where she is a consultant in several departments. In 2020 she won the Cheryl & Henry Kloppenburg Award for Literary Excellence and was awarded a lifetime membership with the League of Canadian poets. She lives just outside of Saskatoon.

Excerpt

āniskōstēw - connecting

I cannot say for sure what happened
to my mother and father.
The story said,
she went to St. Anthony's Residential School
and he went to Blue Quills.
They slept on straw mattresses and
attended classes for half a day.
Mother worked as a seamstress,
a kitchen helper, a dining room servant,
or labored in the laundry room.
Father carried feed for the pigs,
cut hay for the cattle and
toiled in the massive garden.

That little story is bigger than I can tell.

Dedication to the Seventh Generation

ahâw,
ôta ka-wîhtamâtin âcimisowin
I will share these stories
but I will not share
those from which I will never crawl.
It is best that way.
I forget to laugh sometimes,
though in these forty years
my life has been filled
with towering mornings,
northern lights.
Sit by the kotawân - the fire place.
Drink muskeg and mint tea.
Hold your soul
but do not weep.
Not for me, not for you.
Weep for those who haven't yet sung.
Weep for those who will never sing.

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