Saturday, December 28, 2013

Message Sticks/Tshissinuatshitakana - Josephine Bacon

Today's book of poetry:  Message Sticks/Tshissinuatshitakana.  Josephine Bacon.  Translated from French by Phyllis Aronoff.  TSAR Publications.  Toronto, Ontario.  2013.  (Bilingual Innu-aimun - English)

Ninan apu mitshetiat                          

miam assi


We are rare
we are rich

like the land
we dream.


"Batons a message" were signs that the people left to help others find their way.  Little sticks arranged to tell a brief, but important story.  Josephine Bacon, in Message Sticks, is carrying on that tradition.  She is leaving messages to help direct the people's way.

Tutamani essishuein,
tutamani eshi-nateunitamin,
tutamani nin
tshika min a kau nitinniun?


If I do what you say,
If I do what you ask,
If I build up my hope,
will you give me back
my roots?


My limited typesetting and computer skills hamper the full expression of some of the Innu-aimon text and for that I apologize.  But I thought it useful to see the poems as fully as possible.

Josephine Bacon has distilled the necessary to a very few words.  Ezra Pound would be proud.  And in a very few words Bacon has found a clarity and a laser focus.  The reader is never confused about Josephine Bacon's priorities.

manentamani nitassi


eka tshituiani


Kill me
if I don't respect my land

Kill me
if I don't respect my animals

Kill me
if I remain silent
when they don't respect
my people


Message Sticks is broken up into six sections, all composed of very brief and untitled poems.  But for Bacon brief never means terse.  These aren't the poems of someone of few words but instead poems from someone who chooses her words with certainty and precision.

Nikassenitamun katshi
nishtutaman ekue

Kashikat nushtueniten
eshinakuak nitinniun
nimateniten nuash


My pain,
become remorse,
is the long punishment
that bends my back.

My back is like
a sacred mountain,
bent from having loved
so many times.


Denise Brossard, Inter, art actuel, had this to say about Message Sticks:
     "Batons a message/Tshissinuatshitakana, Josephine Bacon's first collection of poetry is one of those      books you want to give to a friend saying, "Here, drink in this light.'"

Josephine Bacon is an Innu from Betsiamites who now lives in Montreal, she is also a songwriter and documentary film maker.

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