Eagle Feather News Interview - The Crooked Good

Reviewed by: Mike Gosselin

Louise Halfe an intimidating literary force

Anyone assigned to review a poetry book by the likes of Louise Bernice Halfe is faced with attempting to constructively criticize greatness. 

It just so happens I am required to review her new collection of poems entitled The Crooked Good and, considering I am a poet who writes in a non-orthodox style, am 100 per cent intimidated by her...in a good way. I'll tell you why.

During the Anskohk Literature Festival this past October, I graciously accepted a request from my friends at the Saskatchewan Native Theatre Company (SNTC) to perform a 15-minute poetry reading at Emerging Writer Night. I happily accepted and planned to read my selected poems for a group of, well, emerging writers.

As I nervously sat in the foyer at SNTC preparing for the well-intentioned heckling I would surely receive from SNTC staff and some writer friends, I was horrified with a sudden realization five minutes before show time - the crème de la crème of Aboriginal writers began to trickle in.

First it was Maria Campbell (she's always early), then Neal MacLeod, Marilyn Dumont and ten seconds before taking the stage it happened...the most gifted, powerful and poignant Aboriginal poet I have ever read walked by me, smiled and strolled coolly into the theatre...it was, of course, Louise Halfe.

My palms began to sweat, knees started to shake and my stomach turned more fiercely than a BC highway. I was scared and it showed in my performance.

After missing cues, slurring words and fiddling with my book, I glumly walked off stage with my head staring at the ground. As I neared Louise Halfe's table, I could feel her piercing eyes staring into the depths of my tortured soul.

I forced my head up to look at her and she smiled at me and said only two words, two words that have since caused me a great deal of stress, self-doubt and mystery. She said "good job."

"Liar," I thought. "You are only saying that out of pity."

I was, of course, praying that she actually meant it.

Now, sitting here with mesmerizing words from The Crooked Good floating around in my head, I must find an intelligent way to effectively review this powerful new book. 

The problem is Louise Halfe explores themes of love, culture, pain, woman, family and history with vigorous truth and power and does so with amazing imagery, meticulous description and effortless flow.

If you have read her 2004 release Blue Marrow you'll know what I mean.

The Crooked Good builds on her explosive ability to take readers on a roller coaster ride and does so as skewskit or Turn-around Woman - who leads readers to the brink of emotional exhaustion. In a good way.

 Beyond that, there is little left to describe how The Crooked Good affected me as a reader. I laughed, cried, experienced anger, felt ashamed of being a man and damned for having European blood. I also felt damn proud to be Metis.

When asked about her rituals, superstitions or routines regarding writing such a powerful collection of poems, Louise Halfe's spiritual vibe and indescribable aura emanate from the computer screen in her emailed response.

"I started writing The Crooked Good in my heart a thousand years ago...I am most inspired to write in the mornings when my censor is still asleep, I am most productive when the moon is entering the exposition of her belly...writing itself is a ceremony, a type of prayer."

Stunned, I am left to wonder if this response is a poem I missed in The Crooked Good.

For all intents and purposes, I give The Crooked Good a 4.5/5. Louise Halfe loses half a mark because she intimidates me...in a good way.

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