Poet Garry Gottfriedson's latest collection probes indigenous identity in Canada

First aired on North By Northwest (01/08/11)

The idea for Garry Gottfriedson's latest poetry collection, Skin Like Mine, initially came to him after he returned from a trip to Taiwan.

A poet, teacher and horse rancher, Gottfriedson is from the Secwepemc First Nation, also known as the Shuswap First Nation, in British Columbia, and visited Taiwan on a book tour with seven other Canadian writers. While he was there, he found a connection to the country that would stay with him for a long time.

"I really became interested in the indigenous people of Taiwan," Gottfriedson told host Sheryl MacKay in a recent interview on CBC's North By Northwest. "What was their plight, their history, what was their relationship with the colonial government that took their country. So it sort of sparked my interest in looking at colonialism and what is colonialism today in Canada."

The result is a poetry collection that is a very personal exploration of one man's experience as a First Nations person in Canada. Gottfriedson reflects on his relationship with his father, with the land and with an indigenous culture that is losing its specificity as it moves towards a more homogeneous experience of identity.

According to Gottfriedson, they are reflections that mostly came to him when he was riding horseback, working his farm.

"When I'm problem solving I ride, and when I problem solve then a line of poetry would come to me," Gottfriedson said. "So I'd remember that line, take it home and just write it in a book. And that's where my poems come from."

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