’ debut collection of poetry, Fireweed
, is a powerfully inspiring expression of adolescent experiences through the eyes of a young two-spirit Indigenous woman. It is dedicated to Indigenous youth, Indigenous women, and two-spirit people, offering them content and support that is both healing and hopeful. Tunchai, known to spirit as White Feather Woman, regards herself as a two-spirit social justice warrior, writer, and wanderer of the Deninu K’ue First Nation. She is also the co-founder of We Matter
, a national multi-media campaign designed to gather positive messages from people across the country, to offer support for Indigenous youth who are going through a hard time.
We wanted to get to know a little more about Tunchai, so we asked her a few questions about herself as a poet, her writing, and her activism.
Kegedonce Press: Do you think of yourself as a poet? Have you always?
Tunchai Redvers: I have struggled with calling myself a poet, which comes from feelings of imposter syndrome that tend to creep up. I don't have the technical knowledge, so to speak, around forms of poetry - and sometimes it can feel as though your poetry is invalid when you start to compare it, and your knowledge of it, with others. This is a super harmful way of thinking of your art and expression though, so I am constantly reminding myself that my writing - in whatever shape or form it takes - is a valid form of poetry. I interchange by calling myself a poet and a writer, as writer feels to emcompass a broader form of expression. I write poetry, prose, and perform some spoken word, but I also love to write in general, whether it be essays, blog style pieces, thoughts and musings, articles. Poetry, specifically, I loved to write growing up in my middle and high school years, and was published in a couple student contest collections. But then there was a long period into my undergrad years where I stopped writing poetry. I still loved to write, though it was mostly limited to academia. There was a part of me that shut off, and was afraid to touch poetry or expressive writing, for fear of what would come out, I think. When I found it again, the bulk of Fireweed came out. So, yeah, I'm a poet, and anyone else who wants to call themselves a poet but is afraid to, you're a poet too.
KP: Is writing therapeutic? If so, how so? If not, how does writing serve you?
TR: Writing is absolutely therapeutic for me - through it, I am able to express myself in a way I am otherwise unable to. I do a lot of public speaking, and would say I am good at it, and enjoy it, but I am unable to articulate myself in the way I can when I write. I am a spirit and emotion-led person, so I find that core part of me is able to come through a lot clearer on paper. I tend to stumble over my thoughts and words when I speak, and writing feels more natural. When I write, I can give life to my frustration, sadness, anger, pain, heartbreak, reflections, inspiration, learnings, and joy. They speak to me, I can look at them, let go of them, sit with them, or bask in them. I had a visit home to the NWT last Christmas, and I went through some poetry from when I was younger for the first time in a while, and I was actually so blown away - by the feelings I was expressing at that age. I came across a poem from a grade 8 or 9 class, and was like "oh my", I'm surprised the teacher did not report this. Writing is an amazing, healthy, and safe way to unpack, untangle, and express all that inner stuff we have coursing through us. For me, it has and continues to be a form of coping, healing, and self-care. And is actually something I facilitate workshops around, with the Indigenous youth work I do.
KP: What is your poetry against? What changes would you like it to make in the world?
TR: Ouf. I could write for days and days about the changes I would make in the world, to a point where it's actually super overwhelming. My poetry is AGAINST colonialism, ultimately. It is against injustice, hetero-patriarchy, self-harm. It is against the hardness in this world. I write to understand colonialism's impact on me, my life, my family, my communities, the people I care about. I also write to understand my own inner workings and insecurities. Angry writing is often my favourite - I'll hear a story, read an article, or experience something that has to do with violence and injustice, and I put that social-justice driven anger into my own words. If I were to boil down all of the changes I wish to see or make in this world, I think it would come out as, tenderness and awareness. If everyone was a little more tender and aware, I believe this world would be a much better place for all of us. Tenderness in terms of tapping into that place of love, care, compassion, and vulnerability; awareness in terms of intrapersonal and interpersonal awareness.
KP: How was Pride this year?
TR: Pride month was a busy, busy month! I have two-sided feelings about Pride though - on one hand, I'm feeling as though Pride has become another marketable thing. Companies, institutions, and businesses are now using Pride as another form of capitalism, with trendy ads and trendy items. Yet very few of them are actually supporting the 2SLGBTIQA+ community, or funneling any of that revenue back into the community. It would be nice if these companies and institutions promoted the same level of diversity and visibility they do during Pride, year round. We don't just exist one month, week, day a year. That being said, Pride is an exciting time for me, because of all the gay in the air! It's a time for community to come together, as there tends to be more spaces for us (in Toronto, at least). I'm also a drag king, so I performed quite a bit during Pride month here, which is something I love doing. There are very few of us Indigenous drag kings, so I'm very proud to rep my long braid and exist in spaces where we have never really been able to exist.
Fireweed is coming soon from Kegedonce Press!