What Gregory Scofield learned by revisiting his memoir Thunder Through My Veins 20 years later
The writing of Red River Métis poet, writer, academic and activist Gregory Scofield has helped shape contemporary Indigenous writing.
Scofield was the 2016 recipient of the Latner Writers' Trust Poetry Prize, a $25,000 award given to an accomplished mid-career poet. His poetry collections include Love Medicine and One Song and Witness, I Am.
He's also the author of the memoir Thunder Through My Veins. Published in 1999 at the age of 33, Thunder Through My Veins recounts Scofield's early life and his experiences defining his identity and place in the world.
Thunder Through My Veins was recently republished, with a new foreword written by Scofield. He spoke with Shelagh Rogers about revisiting the book after all these years.
"This is a memoir that seems to keep revealing itself over the years. It's pretty amazing looking back on being able to tell my story 20 years ago — where I was when I wrote the story, and where I'm at now.
It's pretty amazing looking back on being able to tell my story 20 years ago.- Gregory Scofield
"I sat down with the story and had an opportunity to write a new foreword for the book. I was doing a lot of reflecting on the process of finding home, finding truth — the truth within ourselves and the truth within our families.
"The thing with memoir is that you seem to be writing about one thing at one point in your life. However, I believe we're given one story and then based upon that one story, there seems to be a thousand stories around that."
Reflection and reinvention
"It was important to me to keep the original text intact. This memoir serves as a document from that time. It's important for us to be able to reflect back.
This memoir serves as a document from that time. It's important for us to be able to reflect back.- Gregory Scofield
"There's so much that I've learned and discovered since first writing it. Of course, as I was going through the story, I was tempted to write about new discoveries and new ways of looking at things. But I had to stop myself. I had to recognize that this is a document from 20 years ago. It needs to be left as such."
Writing for myself and others
"I was 33 when I wrote this book. I had published a number of collections of poetry at the time. My poetry has always been very autobiographical. I had always wanted to tell my story. I had always wanted the opportunity to try to piece together a story that was very fragmented for me.
I wanted to write a story that other younger people could relate to and see themselves in.- Gregory Scofield
"I wanted to write a story that other younger people could relate to and see themselves in — especially younger people that had faced the same questions around identity, family, community and belonging. I was very conscious of the audience who was I telling the story to.
"This was a book that I would have wanted to find when I was in high school. This is a book that I would have wanted to find in order to find myself."
Gregory Scofield's comments have been edited for length and clarity.