Billy-Ray Belcourt’s poetry continues to impact and inform Canadians

(Photo Wordfest)

By Laura Mushumanski

Award winning poet Billy-Ray Belcourt

(ANNews) – One of the ways that our Indigenous communities have been coping with adversity is through making miyawâtamowin (joy). Our communities have shared similar feelings of  miyawâtamowin from a good belly laugh after one of our uncles tells us to pull his finger just so he can find an excuse to make his own smoke signals, the heart fulfilling miyawâtamowin of when we watch our youth engage in ceremony, or when kohkom invites us into her home and serves tea and bannock, knowing exactly why you sought out her comfort- even if it means her putting you in your place. The nourishment of our surroundings, the humour exuding outwardly from our hearts, and the wisdom that is passed onto the next generations continues to brighten our spirits with miyawâtamowin.

Joy can also be found in various forms of writing, specifically osâm-âcimowin– poetry, the story that overdoes it.

On June the fourth, Billy-Ray Belcourt was awarded The Writers’ Guild of Alberta, Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry. The osâm-âcimowin book, NDN Coping Mechanisms was first published September 2019. This is the second book of poems that Belcourt published and expresses how making miyawâtamowin as a coping mechanism from the experiences of colonial violence encourages strength and love for one another within our communities.

The 2020 Alberta Literary Awards winner was born and raised 3ish hours northwest of Edmonton on Driftpile First Nation. Belcourt holds a PhD in English from the University of Alberta, and in 2018, won Canada’s most prestigious award accompanied by a generous amount of sôniyâw (money), the Griffin Poetry prize for his first osâm-âcimowin book, This Wound is a World.

Belcourt interconnects his ancestral knowledge and Indigenous identity by expressing his emotions through words bursting with passion, empathy, compassion, internal hardship and resilience. The various experiences embodied within Belcourt’s poetry, allows his readers to feel the vibrancy of his energy through visual art, prose and poetry- revealing the misrepresented Indigenous and queer communities within mainstream media.

At the young age of 25, the UBC associate professor has made a mark on Turtle Island’s soil as being one of the most creative and imaginative writers in the country. And upholds to make his argument that “if signifiers of Indigenous suffering are everywhere, so too is evidence of Indigenous peoples’ rogue possibility, their utopian drive.”

Laura Mushumanski is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter with Alberta Native News.

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