#IndianLovePoems: Tenille Campbell's dating life served as inspiration for poetry collection

Fresh off a break-up, poet Tenille Campbell entered a world of online dating she was not familiar with. “I just went out and started flirting, dating, sexing, and having one night stands,” said Campbell. “I’d be calling up my girlfriends the next day being like, ‘Sit down I have a story.’”
Tenille Campbell is the author of #IndianLovePoems. (Submitted to CBC)
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Originally published February 11, 2018

Fresh off a break-up, poet Tenille Campbell entered a world of online dating she was not familiar with.  

"I just went out and started flirting, dating, sexing, and having one night stands," said Campbell. "I'd be calling up my girlfriends the next day being like, 'Sit down I have a story.'"

She started writing about her dating life, which she turned into the poetry collection, #IndianLovePoems.

But Campbell said she wasn't always so open about her sex life and sexuality.  

"I was one of those judgmental people — it wasn't the best version of myself," she said.

"It took me a lot of work to get to a place where I could talk about this, and for me my entry is through humour."

Campbell recalled the first time she was asked to write about something erotic was in a class at the University of British Columbia, which she was taking for her MFA in creative writing.

"Richard Van Camp was hosting a class, and towards the end of the class he looked up … and [was] like, 'I want you to write about the sacred orgasm,'" said Campbell.

"I've never seen Indians blush so red ... including myself. I looked away, I covered my ears because they were turning red."

The response to Campbell's erotic poetry has been fairly positive, but she said she has come across a few haters online.

"Not everyone is fan, but I've come to understand that we're all on our own journey when it comes to sexuality and sensuality," said Campbell.

Campbell attributed her openness to writing about her sex life to the fact that she now lives in a big city.  

"I think it's still taboo in a lot of places, if I was still up north I don't necessarily think I would be writing this, because I wouldn't be sleeping with people the way I am in the city," said Campbell who is from English River First Nation in Saskatchewan.

"In the north it's more isolated, you worry more about what people think, there's more religious influence … when you're in the big city surrounded by people so different from you, everything goes — I think experimentation is a little more allowed."

For people entering the online dating world for the first time, Campbell has a few tips for your Tinder account:

  • No duck lip photos

  • Use filters: "You need one of your best pictures, don't be afraid to smooth out the skin a little … filters are your friend."

  • Mix up your photos: "Usually it's one face, one body and one of you doing something exciting. With guys it's always with a truck or a fish."

  • Engage suitors with your write-up: "Hook them with a line or tell them to do something. Often I'm like, 'What's your favourite pick up line?'"