Try Poetry: a beautiful rebellion + Rita Bouvier

Poet and teacher Rita Bouvier joins the Try Poetry docket with her latest collection a beautiful rebellion (Thistledown Press). She recommends a wealth of Indigenous poets and shares how the Idle No More movement inspired the collection’s triumphant, eponymous poem, which is shared at the bottom of this post.


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An Interview with Poet Rita Bouvier

All Lit Up: When was the moment that you decided you wanted to write poetry?

Rita Bouvier: It was something entirely different. Practical, one might say. As I remember it, the Grey Nuns teaching in my home community often used choral reading of poetry to get our tongues around the sounds of the English language. The poetry we recited often had form—a pattern, making it easy to memorize, and which gave it a musical quality. This early experience instilled a love of poetry throughout my schooling, and eventually a love of writing my own poetry in high school. I loved the imagery, the way that language could sing, move through time/space, and evoke such intensity of emotion. Of course, since then I have learned, informally, about all the ways that a creative writer can deliberately use or play with language(s) to accomplish this and more.

ALU: If you had to pitch your featured poem to someone who had never read poetry before, how would you do so?

RB: The best way to answer this question is, first, with a disclosure that I am by profession, a teacher. When I find myself in front of young audiences that may not have much experience with poetry (I think it applies in this context), I begin by creating a relational space by inviting them to join me in a circle. I introduce the title of the poem I will read with a very brief back story of how I came to create the poem. Then I invite them to close their eyes (of course, not everyone will do this) and simply “listen” to the poem as I read it, and to think about how it makes them feel. When I have finished reading the poem, trusting listeners (and readers in this context) to form their own conclusions, I will announce “there are no right or wrong answers” and ask each person (turn-taking and passes allowed) to share how they felt and/or where the poem took them in their mind and/or to share a line that really stuck with them. The outcome is rich and often surprising, not what I intended. As closure, I would read the poem, anew.

The brief back story of the poem is as follows: When Bill C-45—an omnibus budget implementation bill affecting over 60 Acts, including changes to land management on lands reserved for First Nations—was introduced by the Canadian government in 2012, four Saskatchewan women came together to resist this action by the federal government. The Bill would also remove protection for hundreds of waterways and weaken Canada’s environmental laws. Following a teach-in at Station 20 West, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the Idle No More Movement was born. It quickly spread throughout Canada and the world. I was in Mexico at the time, when images of the teach-ins and rallies came flooding in. I was moved by the elegance of the round dance which marked the peaceful movement’s emergence.

Writing process: Slow. I wrote pages describing what I saw and felt. I participated in some of the teach-ins online when I returned and made notes in retrospect. This led to re-reading on anti-colonial movements, and reflection on resistances led by Indigenous peoples on Canadian soil and elsewhere and trying yet again to gain a better understanding of the essence of these movements—to advance my own theory as it were, and it all came together in “a beautiful rebellion,” the poem and the collection.

ALU: What’s a poetry collection or individual poem that you’d recommend to anyone looking to get into poetry?

RB: There are so many collections and individual poems, and poets I love. Today, I have chosen Chickasaw poet, novelist, essayist, teacher, and activist, Linda Hogan, whose words I have excerpted for this collection from her latest book of prose and poetry, The Radiant Lives of Animals. I love the imagery, movement, and spiritual quality of her poetry as she witnesses events often of immense significance, historical and societal, and I love the way she brings it home to us at a personal level. My first introduction to her poetry was The Book of Medicines, published in 1993. Here is a link to some of her poetry.

And yes, read Randy Lundy, Marilyn Dumont, Joanne Arnott, Gregory Scofield, Katherena Vermette. When you are able, read emerging poet Cooper Skjeie, a gifted soul full of surprises.

“a beautiful rebellion”

From Rita Bouvier’s collection a beautiful rebellion.

women across the land
are dancing
the mighty nahannie
dehcho—the Mackenzie misinipî—the Churchill
kâ kisiskâcowa—the Saskatchewan

the dance      the music
it goes like this
a sacred love for all
a round dance revolution
all can join

don your moccasins      nosisim                         grandchild
join in the nîmihitowin movement                      dancing
restoring the art of gathering
sweet      wild berries
mint and ginger root
restoring the art of harvesting
making dried fish
scraping and tanning moose hides
restoring the art of visiting
recounting the memories
adding to the story
like old times around the fire
giving thanks      always give thanks

iyakôma       the wise people said       this is it
î miyösik       ôma       this is goodness
kâwiya wihkâc wanikiskisik       don’t ever forget this

“a beautiful rebellion” is excerpted from a beautiful rebellion by Rita Bouvier, copyright © 2023 by Rita Bouvier. Reprinted with the permission of Thistledown Press.

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Rita Bouvier is a Métis writer and educator from Saskatchewan. Her third book of poetry, nakamowin’sa for the seasons (Thistledown Press, 2015) was the 2016 Saskatchewan Book Awards winner of the Rasmussen, Rasmussen & Charowsky Aboriginal Peoples’ Writing Award. Rita’s poetry has appeared in literary anthologies, journals – print and online – musicals, and television productions, and has been translated into Spanish, German and the Cree-Michif of her home community of sakitawak, Île-à-la-Crosse, situated on the historic trading and meeting grounds of Cree and Dene people.

Photo credit: Bob Morgan.

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Thanks to Rita Bouvier for answering our questionnaire and sharing “a beautiful rebellion” with us for Try Poetry (Why Not?).

Remember, if you purchase a copy of a beautiful rebellion or any of the other featured Try Poetry collections, you’ll receive a free digital sampler containing all of our featured poems. (Purchase from All Lit Up or from your local independent bookseller; send proof of payment to if you purchase from your local!)