Author Spotlight for March: Louise Bernice Halfe – Sky Dancer

For International Women’s History Month we feature Sky Dancer, Louise B. Halfe. Her celebrated poetry collections Bear Bones and Feathers, Burning in this Midnight Dream, Blue Marrow, and The Crooked Good have earned many awards and accolades. Sky Dancer served as the second poet laureate for Saskatchewan in 2005 and has just finished her tenure as the 2022 Parliamentary Poet Laureate for Canada.

A member of the Saddle Lake Cree Nation, Halfe attended the Blue Quills residential school when she was young. Her poetry reflects on the history and experiences of Indigenous peoples; on colonialism, residential schools, and inter-generational trauma. But her writings always carry themes of hope, healing, recovery and reconnection to ancestral language and tradition.

Sky Dancer joined Kegedonce Press’s list of authors in late 2020. Earlier that year, Coteau Books, her previous publisher, sadly closed its doors. Sky Dancer reached out to us to put two of her classic poetry collections, Blue Marrow and The Crooked Good, back into print.

Both books place a strong emphasis on the strength of women and their experiences of colonialism and patriarchy. Much of the long poem of Blue Marrow is voiced by Grandmothers, both past and present, real and legendary. The Crooked Good traces the story of ê-kwêskît, Turn-Around-Woman, a story paralleled by the legend of Rolling Head Woman. The poems are a tribute to the lives, the hopes and the dreams of Indigenous women, and to their indomitable power.

In her interview with Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm in our new edition of Blue Marrow, Halfe spoke about the women in her poetry:

“I wanted to give them voice. Because increasingly, we’re up against our men. We’re trying to find our voice and our place. I also wanted to ask those particular Grandmothers, What was it like for you to be married to a settler? Because I’m married to a settler. I needed to understand where they were coming from. … I wanted to go inside their skin and find out what it was like for many of our women way back then. And, really, the dynamics are not very much different from today.”

Sky Dancer is also a strong advocate of language learning and preservation, and her poetry is threaded throughout with Cree names, words, phrases and some whole verses in Cree. She comments on this in the same interview:

“It’s not only preservation of the language, it’s also to create a dialogue with people who don’t speak the language, whether they are native or settlers. If they are stuck, they will find somebody who will help them along the way. The other point that I wanted to make is that often I will come across a phrase or a statement or a word in a foreign language that I don’t understand and often there is no interpretation of that word. I, as a reader, I have to guess. So I figure tit for tat. If they can do it, we can do it.”

Though the books include Cree/English glossaries, the use of Cree is intended to extend the conversation about, and learning of, the language beyond their pages.

We at Kegedonce Press had a marvellous time working on Blue Marrow and The Crooked Good. As we had no digital copies of the books to work from, they had to be typed up by hand before the publication process could begin—it was an opportunity to closely read these simply brilliant poetry collections.

We then reached out to two talented Indigenous artists, Leah Dorion and Keevin Peeace, who provided the cover art for Blue Marrow and The Crooked Good, respectively. Our wonderful layout designer, Chantal Lalonde, took those amazing cover images and used selections from them to beautify the interior pages. We love these gorgeous new editions of Sky Dancer’s classic poetry collections!

As part of our Indigenous Languages feature for 2023, Blue Marrow is on sale for the month of March, only on the Kegedonce Press website.

You can see and hear Sky Dancer reading from Blue Marrow and The Crooked Good on the Kegedonce Press YouTube Channel.

More News

Author Spotlight for December – Richard Van Camp

As we come to the close of our 30th anniversary year, we shine our final author spotlight on the incomparable Richard Van Camp. Richard, who is a proud Tlicho Dene from Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, has published numerous short story collections, novellas,...

Author Spotlight for November: Marjorie Beaucage

We are fast coming to the end of our special Author Spotlights for 2023, our 30th Anniversary year. Our penultimate spotlight shines on Marjorie Beaucage, one of our newest authors, who joined the Kegedonce Press family with her debut book, leave some for the birds:...

Author spotlight for October: Nathan Niigan Noodin Adler

Nathan Niigan Noodin Adler, author of Wrist and Ghost Lake (Kegedonce Press) and co-editor of Bawaajigan ~ Stories of Power, a dream-themed anthology of Indigenous writers (Exile Editions). He is an artist and filmmaker who works in a variety of mediums including...

Author Spotlight for September: Albert Dumont

Albert Dumont is Algonquin from the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, and has dedicated his life to promoting Indigenous spirituality and healing and to protecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples, particularly the young. He is a Spiritual Advisor and since October 2016 he...

Author Spotlight for August: NShannacappo.

NShannacappo is a Nakawe author, poet, illustrator and graphic artist. He currently lives in Ottawa where he illustrates graphic novels, both his own and for other authors, and writes poetry. He published his debut solo-authored graphic novel, The Krillian Key:...

Author Spotlight for July: Sharon King

Sharon King, the author and illustrator of the award-winning children's board book, Amik (2021), is from the Wasauksing First Nation near Parry Sound. She is an author, performer, and producer, and works as an educator at Wausauksing. In 1999, King was nominated for a...

Author Spotlight for June: Bomgiizhik Isaac Murdoch

Bomgiizhik Isaac Murdoch is a man of many roles and many talents. He is from the Nimkii Aazhibikoong First Nation and is Ojibwe of the Fish Clan. He is an artist, storyteller, singer-songwriter, activist, author, public speaker, and knowledge keeper. He currently...

Author Spotlight for May: Christine Miskonoodinkwe Smith

When Christine Miskonoodinkwe Smith came to Kegedonce Press with her proposal for a memoir-style essay collection about the Sixties Scoop, we knew that these were important stories, stories that needed to be told. These are the Stories: Memories of a 60s Scoop...

Author Spotlight for April: D.A. Lockhart

For April, National Poetry Month, we shine the spotlight on D.A. Lockhart, author of multiple poetry collections and the award winning short story collection Breaking Right: Stories. His work has been shortlisted for the Raymond Souster Award, Indiana Author’s Awards,...