Ode to Northern Alberta
after joshua jennifer espinozahere, no one is birthedonly pieced together.i tire myself outpretending to have a body.everyone worships feelingsthey don’t have names forbut no one is talking about it.love is a burning house we built fromscratch.love keeps us busy while the smoke clears.history lays itself bareat the side of the roadbut no one is looking.history screams into the nightbut it sounds too much like the wind.cree girls gather in the bushand wait for the future.in the meantimethey fall in love with the treesand hear everything.in the 1950smy not-yet mooshum ran awayfrom a residential schoolin joussard, alberta.as an adulthe kept coming backdespite knowingheaven is nowhere near here
Reprinted by permission of the University of Minnesota Press from their edition of This Wound Is a World (2019).
Copyright © 2017 by Billy-Ray Belcourt.
Billy-Ray Belcourt is a writer and academic from the Driftpile Cree Nation. He is an Assistant Professor in the Creative Writing Program at the University of British Columbia. A 2018 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar, he earned his PhD in English at the University of Alberta. He was also a 2016 Rhodes Scholar and holds an M.St. in Women’s Studies from the University of Oxford and Wadham College. In the First Nations Youth category, Belcourt was awarded a 2019 Indspire Award, which is the highest honor the Indigenous community bestows on its own leaders. He is the author of three books: This Wound is a World, NDN Coping Mechanisms: Notes from the Field, and A History of My Brief Body. His fourth book, A Minor Chorus, will be published in the fall of 2022 by Hamish Hamilton (CAN) and W.W. Norton (US).
Presented here with several additional poems, this prize-winning collection pursues fresh directions for queer and decolonial theory as it opens uncharted paths for Indigenous poetry in North America. It is theory that sings, poetry that marshals experience in the service of a larger critique of the coloniality of the present and the tyranny of sexual and racial norms.
"This Wound Is a World is a decolonial wildfire from which the acclaimed writer Billy-Ray Belcourt builds a new world and it’s the brilliant, radiant, fucked up Indigenous world I want to live in. His book redefines poetics as a refusal of colonial erasure, a radical celebration of Indigenous life and our beautiful, intimate rebellion. This is a breathtaking masterpiece."
—Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, author of This Accident of Being Lost
"This book is a monument for the future of poetic possibility. It is rare to be able to call a book something so grand and full—and have it be utterly true. That's what This Wound Is a World affords us: myth and hyperbole pressed into a lived and realized life. A reckoning for and of the wreck—bravely buoyant, alive, and finally here."
—Ocean Vuong, author of On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous