Books·Poetry Month

Joshua Whitehead on poetry's radical, survivalist nature

To celebrate National Poetry Month, CBC Books asked Canadian poets what the literary form means to them.
Joshua Whitehead is a two-spirit poet and scholar (Joshua Whitehead)

April is National Poetry Month. To celebrate, CBC Books asked poets the question: "What is the power of poetry?"

Joshua Whitehead is an Oji-Nehiyaw, two-spirit poet, storyteller and academic from Peguis First Nation on Treaty 1 territory in Manitoba.

His book, full-metal indigiqueer, is a collection of experimental poems that aim to provoke discussion and debate.

"Indigeneity, as a pan-peoplehoods, as a network of landbases, and as a signifying word, is too used to being a trace. For me, poetry is a revenant, one that's re-augmented, one that covers the body in jingle cones (which folks too often read as arrowheads, and sometimes rightfully so) it's resistance but it's also survival.

"To be a poet and to sling stories into the world is to reformat the body in such a way that it cannot ever become obliterated. But it's also a homecoming, something that leads me back into my communities with that sweet, sweet smell of maskihkîy (which is always nohkôm's hair). Poetry lets me be as radical, as unabashed, as loud, as femme, as queer and Indigenous in my full-metal glory — that's what my poetry's taught me." ​



To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?