Joshua Whitehead on poetry's radical, survivalist nature
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."