How Randy Lundy's latest poetry collection reveals why the dark times make life beautiful
Randy Lundy is a short story writer, poet and member of the Barren Lands (Cree) First Nation. He has previously published two poetry collections, Under the Night Sun and Gift of the Hawk.
Born in northern Manitoba and living in Saskatchewan, Lundy has spent most of his life surrounded by nature. His latest poetry book called Blackbird Song, delves into that kinship to the land. Accompanied by natural imagery from the Boreal forest to the prairies, the meditative poems in this collection explore love, loss and longing.
Finding inspiration in nature
"I grew up in a small logging community in the parkland region of northeastern Saskatchewan surrounded by trees, water, rocks and animals — across the highway from the confluence of three rivers. There were more bears around than there were people. When I found life becoming a burden and needing peace and time to try and recentre myself, that's often where I would escape to. I would jaunt across the highway and wander along the river banks, often taking my fishing rod along with me. The natural, nonhuman world was just something that I was constantly immersed in as I was growing up and was a great source of comfort at times. I carried that around with me for the rest of my life and it shows up all the time in my writing.
"The landscapes of the poems have changed simply because of where I live now, in Pense, Sask. There are the memories of childhood but the poems are situated, for the most part, in the present time, in this landscape of the northern prairie. Some of the poems are trying to make sense of the relationship between the present landscape and that remembered landscape. The poems aren't regional and they're not even really local. A lot of them have their genesis right on my back deck, with me just looking at the trees and watching birds. All of the writing I do seems to come out of wherever I happen to be situated at a particular time in my life."
A book of meditations
"The poems in the second section of the book are almost exclusively prose poems. I don't even like that phrase. I prefer to think of them as meditations. They are the heart of the book, physically, thematically and spiritually. There's something about the form that allowed me to feel like I could say what I have been wanting to say but couldn't in much shorter lines of a typical lyric poem. There's something about allowing myself to write long lines and write sentences that opened up my ability to delve into what it was that I was thinking about and wanted to say."
The meaning of life
"My mom says 'ayiman,' which in Cree means it's hard. She uses it to refer to life. The point is that human existence is suffering. The poems in this book wrestle with that. It's about how we deal with that, how we don't allow it to defeat us, make us bitter, mean and unhappy people. It can teach us bitterness, it can teach us empathy and compassion. Life is filled with hurt, suffering and disappointment, but it's also filled with immense beauty. I hope at least that's something that's at the heart of pretty much all of the poems in the book. It's an acknowledgement that life is difficult, but it's also a reminder that it's a beautiful experience. And why would you want to be doing anything else, as difficult as it might be?"
"Memory, whether happy or sad, is a record of loss. Even happy memories are no longer with us in the way they were when they happened. From my perspective, that's inevitably what causes suffering. At the same time, memory is at the centre of our identity, which is especially true for Indigenous people. Because of the impact of colonialism, it's important for us to remember who we are, where we come from and our own traditions and cultures."
Randy Lundy's comments have been edited and condensed.