Saturday, May 21, 2016

CFS: Poetry and Prose about Menstruation

Having a visit from Aunty Flo. Moon time. Being on the rag. Whatever we call it, most women menstruate once a month for three decades or more. But in addition to pink-wrapped pads and tampons, Eurowestern women also receive the following messages: don’t talk about your period. Don’t talk about cramps or bleeding through your clothes or having sex while you’re menstruating. Menstrual blood is dirty and talking about it is vulgar. When women do speak up, men often dismiss their politics as moods and hormones and “that time of the month.” But as long as there have been women, we have been telling each other stories about our first periods or that time we stained a chair or a skirt or went swimming for the first time with a tampon. In many Indigenous cultures, menstruation is sacred: menstruating women are considered powerful and connected to the earth.

So let's talk about menstruation, its onset and its disappearance, with all its counting, calendars, surprises, myths, jokes, embarrassments, power surges, possibilities, stains, equipment, and sheets in cold water. Let’s talk about the body and the land, feminism and the environment, gender and disability, age and class and race.

We want your poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and mixed genre pieces about menstruation for an upcoming anthology: women and non-binary identifying authors only, please.

To submit work, please:
  •  Send up to 5 poems, or prose and mixed-genre pieces of 2,000 words or less to us at
  •  Include a 100-word bio. 
  •  Let us know if this piece has been published previously, including where, when, and whether or not you retain the publishing rights to the work. 
  •  Deadline: October 15, 2016. 
The collection will be published by Frontenac House in spring 2017, and edited by Rosanna Deerchild, Ariel Gordon, and Tanis MacDonald.

Rosanna Deerchild is an award-winning Cree author and broadcaster. Her family is from the O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation located near South Indian Lake, Manitoba; she grew up in Thompson, Manitoba. She has worked for a variety of Indigenous newspapers and major networks for over 15 years, including APTN, CBC Radio and Global. Her debut poetry collection, this is a small northern town (Muses’ Company), won the 2009 Lansdowne Prize for Poetry, and she launched her second book, Calling Down the Sky (Bookland Press) in 2015. She is a co-founder and a member of the Indigenous Writers Collective of Manitoba. She lives in Winnipeg and works as the host of Unreserved for CBC Radio One.

Ariel Gordon is a Winnipeg writer with a background in science and journalism. Her second collection of poetry, Stowaways (Palimpsest Press, 2014), won the 2015 Lansdowne Prize for Poetry. She is currently writing creative non-fiction about Winnipeg’s urban forest, which is slated for publication in 2018 with Wolsak & Wynn. Gordon works as promotions coordinator at University of Manitoba Press and is a frequent contributor to the Winnipeg Free Press, Prairie Books Now, and Quill & Quire.

Tanis MacDonald is the author of three books of poetry including Rue The Day (Turnstone Press), as well as the non-fiction The Daughter’s Way: Canadian Women’s Paternal Elegies (WLUP). She is Associate Professor in the Department of English and Film Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

For a vaseful of lilacs

Rhubarb plundered from a friend's garden last year.
I have an idea for a poetry project.

I want to trade someone in Winnipeg a poem for a vaseful of lilacs. 
And later, a poem for two handfuls of rhubarb. Or a bowlful of prairie roses/bagful of mint/bag of apples/massive zucchini....

The way it would work is that the week before the 'thing' come into season, I put out a call.
 If you've got an abundant lilac, you pledge me a vaseful. You give me 5 words of your choosing, which I will incorporate into the poem. Then, in a week's time, you deliver the lilacs and I hand over a fresh poem.

M would photograph the lilacs/rhubarb/prairie roses/mint/apples/zucchini.

You get a custom poem. I get the lilacs/rhubarb/prairie roses/mint/apples/zucchini I would normally shake you down for anyways...and, eventually, I have a bundle of bartered poems. 
So who has a lilac bush and NEEDS a poem written just for them (and then poetry audiences everywhere)?

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I just posted this to FB and have already arranged for my first poetry barter! 
The words are: dinosaur, birds, love, childless, peace.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

In Conversation: Winona LaDuke

By Ariel Gordon
Winnipeg Free Press—PRINT EDITION

Winona LaDuke is an author, environmental and Indigenous rights activist, and former U.S. Green Party vice-presidential candidate, as well as a member of Minnesota’s White Earth Reservation.

A graduate of Harvard, she was once noted as one of Time magazine's top 50 most promising leaders under 40. LaDuke is the executive director of Honor the Earth, which she co-founded with the Indigo Girls, which seeks awareness of indigenous environmental issues, and financial and economic resources for the creation of sustainable indigenous communities.

On Saturday at Knox United Church, LaDuke will appear as part of the Spur Winnipeg festival. The event features Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair in conversation with LaDuke, as well as a performance by Winnipeg poet Katherena Vermette.

Winnipeg Free Press: Have you ever been to Winnipeg, which sits on Treaty 1 territory, the traditional lands of the Anishinaabe people, and the homeland of the M├ętis Nation? What have you heard?

Winona LaDuke: I have been to Winnipeg a number of times. I live about five hours south. On our last visit there we went to the Louis Riel museum in St. Boniface. I love to roam Anishinaabe Akiing (the land to which our people belong)—the border is irrelevant to me. Last week I was in Thunder Bay and Manitou Rapids. Our territory as Anishinaabeg people is beautiful.

WFP: What advice would you have for the people of Winnipeg, which has a large urban indigenous populations and was recently dubbed Canada’s Most Racist City by Maclean’s magazine?

WL: Canadians, like Americans, have an incredible case of denial about indigenous people and how the process of continued theft of our land, water and way of life — Cross Lake and Attawapiskat are two recent examples and maybe we can add the fires in Alberta. There's this amazing disbelief that the urbanization of native people is directly related to the destruction of our land and our wealth and then we are treated as second- or third-class citizens. Our humanity is linked.

WFP: This week, Canada became a full supporter of the United Nations' Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. What does this change in status mean to you? What could it mean?

WL: It's about time. It is time to actually respect the rights of indigenous people, including the right to say no. Prior and informed consent also means the right to say no. The destruction and genocide in Canada which continues with Canada's ability to pretend there is no connection between mega-projects that destroy a people's territory, food and lifeblood, and the suicide epidemics in Pimicikamak and Attawapiskat, the sexual abuse and missing and murdered women, is astounding. Time to wake up and uphold international law.

WFP: Tell me about Honor the Earth, the organization you co-founded with the Indigo Girls. What are some of your current projects?

WL: We're a 23-year-old organization that works on environmental and economic issues in indigenous communities and nations. Our primary program work now is focused on the three Enbridge pipelines proposed through northern Minnesota — the Clipper expansion which we sued to oppose, the proposed abandonment of Line 3, with all the risks being assumed by the Anishinaabeg and the people of northern Minnesota, with the profits to benefit a Canadian corporation, and the proposal for the Sandpiper pipeline to transport Bakken crude oil.

We are also working on a set of solar thermal installations in Minnesota’s Pine Point village — and also plan on a solar school project there.

WFP: I got a Gete Okosomin squash this past fall from Canadian Mennonite University’s CSA farm. As I understand it, you and the White Earth Land Recovery Project had a hand in recovering the 800-year-old seed from a clay ball on the Menomonee reservation in Wisconsin. Can you tell me why that project was important for you? And what’s your favourite way to eat "Cool Old Squash?"

WL: My father, who passed away 20 years ago, used to come see me at Harvard when I was an undergraduate. He once said to me, "You're a smart young woman, but I don’t want to hear your philosophy unless you can grow corn." That's what I do; I am involved in the restoration of traditional varieties of northern hominy and flour corn. I do this because I love the plants and I love that they are pre- and post-petroleum. They are the seeds of the future, including Manitoba White Flint. Most of them have twice the protein of sweet corn and are amazing.

I like the squash with sausage and maple syrup and wild rice: roast it in the oven with the sausage and wild rice and maple syrup inside it.

WFP: I saw you give a talk titled Keystone XL: We Are Not Protesters, We Are Protectors in Calgary in 2014. You had hundreds of people hanging on your every word. What do you get out of doing lectures and speeches, as opposed to writing books or one-on-one community organizing?

WL: I love both. To write a book and write articles gives you the time to hear the words in your head and then look at them on paper. When you say them, you are naked in the front of all.

WFP: What are you reading right now? What are you writing right now?

WL: My latest book is coming to the Spur Festival with me — The LaDuke Chronicles.

It’s collection of current, pressing and inspirational stories of indigenous communities, from the Canadian subarctic to the heart of Dine Bii Kaya, Navajo Nation. Chronicles is a book literally risen from the ashes — beginning in 2008 after my home burned to the ground — and collectively is an accounting of my personal path of recovery, finding strength and resilience in the writing itself as well as in my work. Long awaited, Chronicles is a labour of love, a tribute to those who have passed on and those yet to arrive. (You can find it at

Ariel Gordon is a Winnipeg writer.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Reprint: Furbaby

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So, two years ago, Kerry Clare's mothering anthology, The M Word, was published.

Kerry asked contributors to write updates to their M Word essays. My essay, "Primipara," was about my decision to only have one child.

"Primipara" was my first published essay. Though I was really very glad that Kerry asked me to write something, the actual writing-something process was excruciating. I was worried about what I had to say and how I was saying it. The essay seemed so long compared to a poem or even a suite of poems. And I distrusted double spacing: it looked flabby and weird.

But I persevered and got through both Kerry's and Goose Lane's edits. And then we launched it at McNally's, with Kerry Clare and Kerry Ryan and a visual artist/mother and jam-filled imperial cookies in the shape of a baby's head. (WE ATE BABY HEADS!)

Though I'm more comfortable with the essay form now, I wasn't sure what I wanted to write about this time. My daughter is almost ten but her status and is still an only child. What had changed was that we added another dependant to our household, which was a big step for us, being leery of dependents generally.

So: this essay is about kittens and daughters and love and claws. And I wrote it in an afternoon when I was avoiding another essay.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Tracking the progress of the sun

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Tracking the progress of the sun through McNally's atrium: a 2016 Authors for Indies event.

The conceit behind AFI is that authors step in and show their appreciation for independent bookstores by working in the bookstore for a day, hand-selling books or doing readings.

Last year, I was in Hamilton's Epic Books for AFI. I talked about Robert Kroetsch's The Studhorse Man and Roewan Crowe's Quivering Land and ate cupcakes and talked to bookstore patrons.

This year, I AFI-ed at Winnipeg's McNally Robinson Booksellers, which is of course probably one of the best independent bookstores I've ever worked with, read at, or bought books from.

McNally's chose to have nine participating literary authors take part in a reading on Saturday afternoon. The format was that each of us were supposed to choose a book to recommend. We each had eight minutes to read a passage from that book.

I chose Anne Szumigalski's A Peeled Wand: Selected Poems of Anne Szumigalski (Signature Editions). Here's what my recommendation looked like:

"This book includes work from twelve of the the late Saskatchewan writer’s poetry collections. It was published posthumously by Signature Editions and edited by Montreal poet Mark Abley, Szumigalski’s literary executor. But all of that is details: what’s important here is that the poems are so very good. Beginning with the publication of Woman Reading in Bath (1974) when Szumigalski was 52, she took on everything from sex to identity to spirituality. The poems that came out of those investigations are strange and smart and sad. They deserve to be read and re-read."

The event itself was fun. It was great to read a handful of Szumigalski's poems and to have eight of Winnipeg's best writers talk about books and writers they enoyed.

As you can see from the pictures, it was a sunny day outside, so writers slid in and out of patches of lights from the Atrium's windows.

My thanks to Authors for Indies and to McNally Robinson, for being the consummate host.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Wine & Words 2016

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Writers! Actors! Wine! What else is there?

(My poem "Collapsar" is being performed by Justin Otto, which I'm greatly looking forward to...)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Animal Internet could help species survive

Winnipeg Free Press—PRINT EDITION
Reviewed by Ariel Gordon

My smartphone pings. My sister has texted me, reminding me that I’m supposed to make a salad for our family dinner this weekend.

Another ping — this time from my electric car, letting me know it’s fully charged.

I could go to the store for lettuce, but instead I spend the time watching a peregrine falcon nest on the roof of the Radisson Hotel via webcam. I’ve been binge-watching the chicks since they hatched.

So far, according to Munich-based writer Alexander Pschera, I’ve just accessed three different Internets: Human, Internet-of-Things and Animal.

Pschera has written several books about the Internet and media in his native German, but Animal Internet is the first one released in translation in North America.

There are a few facts that underlie Pschera’s examination of the Animal Internet. The first is that according to the World Wildlife Fund, Earth has lost half of its animals in the last 40 years. The second is that the average American child spends over 50 hours per week on electronic devices and less than an hour outside.

To Pschera, those are the results of ecology. He believes that attempts to protect endangered animals by separating them from people has only distanced us from the natural world and hasn’t slowed the rate of species loss. And the Human Internet has only widened the gap between people and nature.

"But I watch kitten videos and look at pictures of wild animals on a regular basis," one could protest.

Pschera counters that images of something are not the same as the thing itself.

"Over the last two hundred years, the real animals have been replaced by likenesses. The process is dialectical: the further we distance ourselves from nature, the more we produce, reproduce, and disseminate images of animals — all without moving a single step closer to nature in the process."

What’s needed, Pschera says, is direct access, either in person or online, via the Animal Internet.

Pschera thinks that being able to watch a peregrine webcam or "follow" a wolf on Facebook will allow people to connect with animals in a way that nature documentaries and information-dense signage at provincial parks can’t. "Seeing creates knowledge and knowledge leads to action," he writes.

His logic is that interest in a single wolf leads to affection for wolves in general, which leads to advocacy that will protect wolves and the ecosystems they need to survive.

Pschera also believes that gathering data on hitherto-unstudied species, particularly migratory animals, will enable us to better plan for their protection.

But what are the ethics of the Animal Internet?

Pschera claims that there are currently nearly 50,000 wild migratory animals equipped with GPS units. Will having a large population of plugged-in animals enable us to better predict and therefore protect against natural disasters like earthquakes or avalanches? Perhaps. But does having a better early-warning system justify capturing and attaching sensors to ever-increasing numbers of wild animals?

Also, how will we go about monitoring the wealth of information created by the Animal Internet? Pschera says a global monitoring system is needed and quotes German scientist Martin Wikelski, who is attempting to partner with the European and German space administrations to implement this idea.

Are there dangers inherent in the Animal Internet? Yes. For instance, poachers could use the information provided to them by GPS units to more easily find their prey. And allowing people into land trusts and conservation areas might result in paved strips in the wilderness blanketed with discarded Tim Hortons cups.

Is the Animal Internet the answer to our environmental problems and increasing use of the Human Internet? It’s hard to say.

What is certain is that Pschera is an interesting guide to the issues — technological, scientific and philosophical — that derive from such radical thinking.

Ariel Gordon is a Winnipeg writer.