Poetry Editor's Introduction: Indigenous Perspectives Issue #197

Philip Kevin Paul
"A Quiet Matter"

Reading through all the submissions, I found some excellent surprises in approach and many understandably predictable approaches. Among the predictable were those of overwhelming, though unpublishable, didactic verses and rants. I understand this. The anger’s still in me too. (Really?!?!? You want my perspective now?!?!?) Even at this point of my development as a poet, I find myself having to resist the temptation of just “putting it out there.” I’ve struggled for years with a poem tentatively titled, “Waterfront Mansion.” This started after visiting the house and garden my girlfriend tends in North Saanich. As the day progressed, I grew increasingly angry. No Saanich person, here in our own territory, could afford such a house in such a location. If we were to land on the beach, where we used to harvest crabs and sea cucumbers, we would likely be treated with suspicion, even hostility.

The surprising trend in the submissions was the amount of rhyming poems. Not only is rhyme difficult to do well, it’s difficult to “pull off” in this time. I was pleasantly surprised by the volume of prose poetry. From storytelling cultures, prose poetry somehow seems a natural leap. In addition, the tonal control exhibited by those who wrote prose poetry was impressive.

In the end, the most difficult poems to select or leave out, were those either self-conscious in their “Indian-ness” and/or over indulgent in their use of “shock value” when exposing the sadder realities of being First Nations people in Canada. In the former, I can understand completely the temptation to ensure that the reader is able to locate the writer in the place they are writing from. On the other hand, I believe strongly this occurs more naturally if one simply writes from where they are and doesn’t hint or nudge the reader into a corner. Similarly, the poetry over reliant on its shock value was often representing a subject matter that needs attention, but is too easily dismissed when poorly represented. In other words, subtext is a quiet matter.

As it appears in The Malahat Review's Indigenous Perspectives Issue (#197)