Prairie Books Now Review - Crooked Good

Finding her way
Reviewed by: Prairie Books Now

A belief in the inherent goodness of people is an honourable place to begin, Louise Bernice Halfe believes. And that's where the title of her new poetry collection, The Crooked Good, originated. It is, she says, the path everyone must take.' Basically, we're all good people,' she explains, 'but no matter how good we want to be, we're all distracted.'

This is the Saskatchewan writer's third book of poetry. Her first, Bear Bones and Feathers, won the Milton Acorn People's Poetry Award. Her second, Blue Marrow, was nominated for both the Governor General's Award and the Pat Lowther Award, and was a finalist for the Saskatchewan Poetry and Saskatchewan Book of the Year Awards. The Crooked Good reimagines some familiar Aboriginal themes of story, place, and time.

It's a book, Halfe believes, a reader can respond to on both an emotional and an intellectual level' Some of it is based on 20 years of dreams,' she says. 'Some of my own, some of others. Dreams I've incorporated. In my youth, I had a Jungian therapist and because of her I've done a lot of work with dreams.'

The poems that make up the collection feature a number of voices, sometimes ambivalent, sometimes malevolent. The words of multiple recurring characters, of ancestors and family, tell tales that are problematic, full of both heartache and healing. It's a book about storytelling, or story sharing, Halfe says' I want to know how people think and how they resolve things,' she adds. 'The voices are struggling with something or another.' The stories that form the foundations of these poems come from Halfe's life, but also from what she's been told by friends and strangers.

People seem to confide in Halfe, sometimes over a cup of coffee or even over the telephone. It's a knack she has -a talent for sussing out confessions' I'm really nosy, she says, laughing. 'Naturally nosy, and something ignites in people and they spill their guts out. It happens.' The Crooked Good is as much about the journey as it is the destination, and the road we travel is never straight. The title alludes to the self-examination, sometimes difficult, surely, but required of us all'

People should think of their own journeys and how they got there,' she says' Soul-searching has to go to the very depths of the soul,' she adds. 'You have to be totally honest with yourself. You have to squirm and that's all right. That's a good place. 'And Halfe continues with her own lifelong search for meaning and self-understanding' My Cree name translates as Sky Dancer,' Halfe says. 'I was named after the Northern Lights. A lot of history and philosophy is embedded in that translation. 'The old man who forwarded that name to me said I would understand at some point. It's always evolving.' Article by Quentin Mills-Fenn.

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