Shane L. Koyczan: Inconvenient Skin, translated into Cree by Solomon Ratt (y-dialect)

There are many, many reviews to be found on Google praising this 2019 publication from Theytus Books. The book remains shortlisted for the 2019 CODE Burt Award for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Young Adult Literature – the awarding of which was postponed by the arrival of Covid-19.

Shane L. Koyczan began writing it as commentary on the Indigenous experience of Canada’s 150th birthday “celebration.” His poetry is visually underscored by artwork provided with the blessing of the artists themselves: Kent Monkman, Joseph M. Sanchez, Jim Logan and Nadya Kwandibens.

On YouTube, you can find a beautiful July 2017 reading of the poem in English by poet Shane.L.Koyczan accompanied by Tanya Tagaq and Kym Gouchie:

The theme is crucially important; the book itself is beautifully produced. But for those of us who remain focused on Cree, the most significant part of the whole production may be the paragraph-by-paragraph, image-by-image translation provided by Solomon Ratt, allowing the Cree language to provide a layer of restoration and recovery.

My favourite quote comes from p.27:

the winds of change
do not show up in our weather reports
and yet they blow from sea to sea

kâ-kâh-kwîskiyowêk
namôya nôkwan ita kâ-âtotamihk kâ-isiwêpahk
âta yôtin kihcikamihk ohci isko kotak kihcikamihk 

Sincere thanks to Theytus Books for providing a review copy: maybe if we’re lucky, Sol will provide us a recording of his own one day in Cree.

 

 

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