It's been a few months since we last spoke. I'm Evan, in case you forgot, and I'm very pleased to be back as managing editor for the Atlantic Canadian Poets' Archive.
I've spoken before about the field aspect of this job; sometimes I have to get up from my desk, unplug my laptop, and venture out into Fredericton. I've taken pictures, tested the Poetic Places Fredericton app, and occasionally sat in on readings. About three weeks ago I was given the opportunity to watch another performance. I didn't have to travel far this time, either -- just across the courtyard from James Dunn Hall to Edmund Casey Hall at St. Thomas University. My last assignment was the Wolastoqiyik Sisters in Spirit Poetry Slam.
Don't let the name fool you, this wasn't just a poetry reading. This slam, the third annual, was a multi-genre primer in grief. It was an evening packed with music, ranging from traditional to contemporary; short films spanning from spiritual-metaphorical, to revenge, to hope for the future; and of course, poetry at its most. In full, about four hours of soul.
From long-time writers and first time readers, every poet pored truth into power that night. Some spoke to loved ones who've been absent for a while. Others weaved a thread between the brink and back again from addiction to violence and other traumas. Some lingered on not what had happened, but what could happen -- what they might suffer some day. They called on the divine and the government and the men who hold places to start helping them. After all, this was a declaration against the forces which enabled the disappearance and murder of thousands of Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirited people.
But as much as this was a night for grieving, it was also a night for hope. The show was book-ended with selections from the documentary The Spirit of Annie Mae, piecing together a particularly brutal killing in the 1970s. Its producer, Catherine Anne Martin, provided a brief epilogue detailing recent developments in that case. She used her time on stage to thank the poets and performers who gave voice to the missing and murdered: "I heard their voices in all of your work."