Poetry in Motion: Totem Poles and Railroads

With four poetry collection under her belt, Janet Rogers gives us a fifth, Totem Poles and Railroads (ARP Books), a well-versed reflection on the relationship between Indigenous nations and corporate Canada. Janet offers intimate, thought-provoking poems we can really get on board with. Learn more about this collection, and listen to Janet read “Where Are Your Guts.”


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Janet Rogers is a writer and poet from the Mohawk/Tuscarora nations of Six Nations territory and has been living as a guest and visitor on traditional Coast Salish territory (Victoria British Columbia) since 1994. Janet’s poetry lives on the page, inside her five books Splitting the Heart, Red Erotic, Unearthed, Peace in Duress (Talonbooks), and most recently, Totem Poles and Railroads (ARP Books).Her poetry begs to be recorded, and experienced as sonic story/poems. Janet made her first poetry CD during a residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts. Janet’s poetry CDs—Firewater, Got Your Back, and 6 Directions—include music by Indigenous artists and soundscapes that Janet herself produced. Her clear, even-toned voice and smooth reading style lends itself well with the rhythm of her verses. Find her on soundcloud here and here. Being appointed Victoria’s Poet Laureate from 2012-2015 was one of the highlights of her literary career. During this time Janet continued to build on her collections while engaging community in poetry based events. She travels extensively bringing her spoken word, performance poetry and readings to festivals in Auckland and Wellington, New Zealand; Brisbane, Australia; Manhattan, New York; Washington, DC; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Yellowknife, Norman Wells, and Inuvik, North West Territories; and many more cities throughout Canada and the US.Janet’s writing is inspired by Indigenous reality and Indigenous experience. She feels a great sense of responsibility to use her gifts as a writer, a poet, recording artist, and performance artist to convey the Indigenous perspective of the times. Many of the poems in her most recent collection Totem Poles and Railroads were written during her term as UNBC’s Writer in Residence and OCAD’s Niigig Indigenous Visual Culture Visiting Artist. Janet was inspired by the northern BC culture and territory, and felt compelled to write not one but two poems about the notorious Highway 16 aka The Highway of Tears one of which makes up the title of the book. During the second residency, Janet revisits Toronto where she lived for 13 years doing non-traditional labour and partying. She returned 20 years later, as a survivor of a city that challenged her. She returned with new eyes to see the city in a different light; she returned heroic and whole.Watch Janet perform “Where Are Your Guts” from Totem Poles and Railroads at her book launch. And, the poem “Forever” from Peace in Duress (Talonbooks) 

Forever : An Original Poem by Janet Rogers from Jackson 2bears on Vimeo.

***Thanks to Todd at ARP, and Janet for sharing this beautiful poetry with us. For more poetry videos and excerpts, click here.