To celebrate poetry month, two northern authors share what inspires them

·2 min read
Wade Clifford Vaneltsi says the reaction to a poem he submitted to the Gwich’in Council International writing contest has inspired him to pick up the pen once again. (Submitted by Wade Clifford Vaneltsi - image credit)
Wade Clifford Vaneltsi says the reaction to a poem he submitted to the Gwich’in Council International writing contest has inspired him to pick up the pen once again. (Submitted by Wade Clifford Vaneltsi - image credit)

April is poetry month, and northern authors are sharing their work including Wade Clifford Vaneltsi, the author of A Love Letter to the Land.

He wrote the poem while spending two months out at Blatchford Lake.

"I was out there for like two months and I hadn't felt that connection in a while and I forgot how powerful it was to me. I decided to put it into words based on experiences growing up with my dad and him teaching these things on the land."

Looking out on the lake, with his pen in hand, he started writing a poem over two days.

You can listen to that poem, which Vaneltsi read in an interview with the CBC's The Trailbreaker.

The poem was first published in Red Rising Magazine and most recently, was recognized with a first-place award for the adult category of the Gwich'in Council International writing contest #ProudtobeGwichin.

The contest took submissions from Gwich'in in Canada and Alaska.

In November, he saw a post on Facebook from Gwich'in Council International for a writing contest and wanted to see what could happen if he submitted the poem.

Since winning the writing contest, Vaneltsi said messages of encouragement have inspired him to write more.

"I've been getting some nice messages about it," he said.

Vaneltsi who is from Fort McPherson said he connects with "the Peel River, the land around there, the Richardson Mountains."

Asked what he hopes people take from the poem, Vaneltsi said he hopes the poem "inspires them to look outside in a different way … connect with the land like our ancestors have."

Poetry in art

At the Yellowknife Public Library, there is an exhibit with 10 works of art surrounded by the poems they inspired.

About six 'Pandemic Poets' stuck inside all pandemic long, have used images by artists by the likes of Terry Pamplin, Sue Glowach, Bill Braden, Jen Walden and Jessica McVicker.

Every two weeks, the artists would give a prompt like "freedom" or be asked to create something funny based on an image, said poet Paul Mckee.

"It forces you to put pen to paper," said Mckee.

"It's really inspirational," he said, to write a poem alongside people who may come up with something completely different based on those works.

To listen to McKee's poem inspired by artist Bill Braden, you can listen to McKee's interview with The Trailbreaker host Loren McGinnis.

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