Questions and Remedies

ANCESTORS:

Questions and Remedies

ancestors tell us how to continue

inside a world of lovers long forgotten

inside a world of how to be 

remembered on the page,

in books, in our memory and taste buds 

ancestors haunt us through our bone marrow 

ancestors whisper all that you know 

when I am asleep, murmur answers 

from the universe, like my lover 

does in movie theatres, broadcast beyond 

this world with stories that fuel our cells

ancestors defend our love poems, back to us 

ancestors we have queries about your whereabouts

a flash on a street corner, blinds us

a lime green coat, crosses the street, a double take 

a grey-haired woman turns slightly to reveal a profile

we linger at the street corner, tear-filled 

stop in the middle of the road, chin wobble 

we reach out, arms at the ready

a bubble up quick an ugly cry

ancestors show us our own heart 

-Sharanpal Ruprai 

DESCENDANTS:

Remember, that you dear poet, come from a long line of artists. Read, absorb, read, research the poets that have come before you. You are not alone. Honour our artist ancestors by sharing their work with others; share a piece of poetry by someone who has influenced your own work. Grow our ancestor’s readership and it will ground your own practice. 

Sharron Proulx-Turner, a well-known two-spirit Metis poet and she was a dear friend; passed away a few years ago. Our conversations over the years led to sparks of love, ideas and fuelled my second collection of poetry, Pressure Cooker Love Bomb. Sharron reminded me that food and recipes were a vital aspect of love and life. When Sharron was in hospice, I promised her that I would spread the word about her work and make her famous! She, of course, laughed and said, “you, do that!” and we never had a chance to talk about writing again. 

Descendants, when I am asked to read at literary events, I share a poem (or two) from The Trees are still Bending South, by Sharron Proulx-Turner and explain our connection and how she includes her family recipes as poems; this is how we will build a network of generations of ancestors that will support and light the way. I ask you, to do the same. 

From The Trees are still Bending South by Sharron Proulx-Turner

two-spirit love poem, three

in some cultures

when a woman dreams

she’s sun’s lover

she becomes a sundancer

I’ve had no such 

dreams of sun 

but dreams of you 

as we walk 

the blue mountains 

winter’s sun 

warming the sides 

of our faces 

the backs of our necks 

you and me opening 

pathways 

in the snow 

our future 

as new to us now 

as alive and certain 

as the distant 

morning star 

welcoming sun 

as she rises 

her face opened 

in our eyes 

Sharanpal Ruprai is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Winnipeg. Sharanpal Ruprai’s début poetry collection, Seva, was a finalist for the Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry by the Alberta Literary Awards. Her second collection, Pressure Cooker Love Bomb, is a finalist for the 2020 Lambda Literary Awards for Lesbian Poetry.Her poetry is featured in a number of anthologies: GUSH: Menstrual Manifestos for Our Time, The Calgary RenaissanceRed Silk: An Anthology of South Asian Canadian Women Poets, and Exposed. Sharanpal Ruprai is also a poetry editor for Contemporary Verse 2: The Canadian Journal of Poetry and Critical Writing (CV2). 

Sharanpal Ruprai is the 2019-2020 Canadian Writer-in-Residence at the University of Calgary working on a collection of short stories called, Blue Kara.

Sharanpal is currently

working on a collection of short stories called, Blue Kara and I am writing a play! I am so excited that my second poetry book, Pressure Cooker Love Bomb, is a finalist for the 2020 Lambda Literary Awards! So, I am reading all the other Lambda Literary Award finalists listed here:  https://www.lambdaliterary.org/awards/current-finalists/. And being inspired by all the new fresh story lines, language, and visuals that these narratives bring to the mind!Attachments area

Being Outside Time

DEAR ANCESTORS,

 

When I survived my birth, and you learned that I am a girl, what is the first thing that went through your mind? And, this one for the grandparents, considering that you were completely or functionally illiterate, what made you insist on full education for your kids (i.e. my parents)?

 

DEAR DESCENDANTS,

 

Being outside time, I can’t fathom what day to day living is like for you. I would recommend kindness, compassion, humility, gratitude. Those were the fashions back when I had breath. But maybe those choices get you killed nowadays.

 

Rebecca Fisseha is the author of the novel Daughters of Silence, as well as short stories, personal essays and articles that have appeared in Room Magazine, Joyland, Lithub, Zora by Medium, and Selamta. Born in Addis Ababa, she lives in Toronto.

 

Photo credit: Chris Frampton

Which Olive Tree Did You Sit Under?

What compelled them?

 

I am curious about my mixed background but mostly about the Genoese and Venetian ancestors on both sides of my family who sailed the Mediterranean and landed in Izmir in the 17th century, or perhaps earlier. What compelled them to leave home, how and why did they sail, what happened to them?  

As a child I was fascinated by maps. When I got sick my favourite thing was to be in bed surrounded by encyclopaedias with colourful pictures, a large world atlas and a cold compress on my forehead. I spent feverish hours poring over maps, drawing them, running my fingers along coasts and mountains, to the point where I was able to draw the entire map of the world by memory. I became good at drawing the Mediterranean. You’d think I was about to go on an expedition or become a navigator at the age of eight. Why was I so obsessed? I blame it on the ancestors who crisscrossed those waters. Perhaps it goes even farther back in time, to Odysseus whose ship one of my very great grandparents may have boarded as a sailor or a stowaway on that voyage among the dreamy sunny islands of the Aegean. Who knows how far into the past, and how wide into the world that curiosity for “elsewhere” goes? I think of my ancestral roots as the intricate underside of a large forest made up of many different types of trees and shrubs whose life sources are so intertwined that they can no longer tell themselves apart.

The Genoese ancestor I would like to interview appears to have landed on the island of Chios first, possibly in the 14th century or earlier, and may have been involved in the mastic production and trade as well as in the political life of the island. There is a fascinating book I read a few years ago by Philip Argenti, “Religious Minorities of Chios, Jews and Roman Catholics” (Cambridge University Press, 1970) which traces the history of this island within visible distance of the Smyrnian coast, all the way back to 200 B.C.  with an emphasis on their minorities. Chios was an important source of mastic – resin from the mastic tree was used in various industries, making paint and glue etc for a very long time, so the role of the island was pivotal for this particular reason.  It played an interesting part in the power shift that occurred between kingdoms and empires in Europe in the 16th century.  Two kings, Suleyman I who ruled the Ottoman Empire and Francis I of France created a formidable alliance. This powerful and close friendship between a Muslim and a Christian ruler not only scandalized but also terrorized the rest of Europe. In that time, Suleyman and his famous admiral, Barbarossa (Barbaros Hayreddin Pasha) challenged the Genoese supremacy in the Mediterranean and when the Genoese commander Andrea Doria lost an important and final naval battle against Barbaros, the vast sea became dominated by the Franco-Turkish fleet.  Sometime in 1566 an Ottoman fleet of 100 ships arrived in Chios. The Genoese governors who until then were paying tribute to the Ottomans, were invited aboard the ship. Once they got on, they were swiftly taken into custody and that was the end of the Genoese rule of Chios. The importance of mastic in world trade began to wane in favour of rubber around that time as well.  I imagine my Genoese ancestors moved to Smyrna, in the 17th century as a result of all this and settled there. I am not a historian, so I hope I will be forgiven for this brief and imprecise account, and any mistakes I may have made.  Although the Venetians and Genoese were sworn enemies and competed for supremacy for most of their history sailing and trading in the Mediterranean, in Smyrna they seem to have settled down in apparent brotherhood and make up a large part of my ancestral heritage. I would tell them that wanderlust and love for the Aegean Sea aside, the aptitude for trade or business did not trickle down to me. I am not at all gifted that way, but I can perhaps tell a tale. I would love to tell theirs, if they could share them with me. 

Another ancestor, a spiritual one, I’d want to meet is Homer who lived both around Izmir and on the island of Chios. If I could meet him, I would stay quietly by his side and listen to his stories.  I know exactly how the moment would feel; the brightness of the Aegean light, the insistent sound of cicadas, an imbat breeze cooling our faces, the smell of clay and goat poop on dirt roads. I would hold his hand and ask, “Which olive tree did you sit under and dream, please show me, so I can find it in my own time, sit and dream there in the company of your marvelous spirit.” 

 

Leave a Small Trail

 

I hope you gaze at the world you live in with awe and wonder, tread gently upon it beside all living things and try to leave a small trail of kindness behind you when you go. 

 

 

Born and raised in Turkey, Loren Edizel  has lived in Canada most of her life and is the author of three novels, Adrift (2011), The Ghosts of Smyrna (2013), Days of Moonlight (2018)  and a collection of short stories, Confessions: A Book of Tales (2014). The Ghosts of Smyrna was also published in Turkish, in Turkey, in 2017. Her short fiction has appeared in journals in both Canada and in Turkey. She lives in Toronto.

She is currently working on a novel that takes place in Smyrna in the late 19th – early 20th century, focused on the relationship of two sisters and their lives.

Visit her website  and follow her on Goodreads, FB and Twitter to stay in the loop for upcoming events, readings and publications.

I want to know

To those who came before—

 

I used to look for myself in timelines and dog-eared photos, tried to trace my body through maps that spanned the world. I want to know how you were all wildfires below monsoon clouds, flickering flames in tropical rains; how one single steady breath sparks the light in all of us.

 

To those who follow—

 

From where I stand, the path behind me unwinds and winds and winds more than my eyes can hold. The path forward is just as dimpled and trodden because we travel with others, because routes intersect to weave tapestries, because we traverse in pairs and navigate waterways with crews. I am sure in my journey there will be slips and falls, tumbles and tender missteps. Do with it what you will. Never feel as though you are obligated to take the same path. Hold your ancestors and heroes as accountable as you would your friends – after all, they’re one in the same.

 

 

Natasha Ramoutar is an Indo-Guyanese writer, academic, and storyteller from Scarborough, the eastern suburb of Toronto. She completed her Honours Bachelor of Arts in English & French at the University of Toronto Scarborough, and is currently pursuing a Master of Professional Communication at Ryerson University. Her professional and academic background is in literature, film, and communication. Both her critical and creative writing explore popular culture, diaspora, physical movement, and representation.

Follow her creative journey on instagram and twitter.

 

Natasha is currently…

working on her manuscript, tentatively titled Bittersweet, which explores cross-cultural and intergenerational communication, diaspora and transnational migration, and the concept of homeland. It examines her relationship to Guyana, India, and Canada with Scarborough omnipresent as a framing device, along with aspects of my identity as a woman, a person of colour, and a first generation Canadian.

She is grateful to have access to the work of so many impactful writers. Some of her current inspirations include: nayyirah waheed, Anne-Marie Turza, Tanya Talaga, Gaiutra Bahadur, and Dionne Brand. Most recently, She has also found a home within David Chariandy’s lyrical, precise novel Brother,  and forever moved by the work of these emerging writers: Adrian De Leon, Leanne Toshiko Simpson, Téa Mutonji, Oubah Osman, and Chelsea La Vecchia.

Photo credit: Matthew Narea

How can I?

Ancestors,

 

I have thought and thought and I don’t know if I have any questions for you. I know your words were stolen, your stories and bodies turned into sites of shame. I wouldn’t want to burden you with questions you might not want to answer, or memories you may not want to recount. So I guess I have no questions to ask of you. I only have gratitude for you. Because of you, I’m here. Because of you, my daughter is here. Because of you, we still have a small patch of land to call home, a place we can speak our languages and hold our ceremonies together to make our nations strong.

Maybe I do have a question or two after all.

How can I make you most proud?

How can I best show my appreciation for all that you’ve done?

 

 

Descendants,

 

You are worth all the struggles I’ve had to endure and will have to endure in my life.

You are worth it all.

 

 

 

Alicia Elliott is a Tuscarora writer living in Brantford, Ontario. Her writing has been published by The Malahat Review, The New Quarterly, The Walrus, Macleans, Globe and Mail and many others. Her essay “A Mind Spread Out on the Ground” won Gold at the National Magazine Awards this past May and has been selected to be published in Best Canadian Essays 2017. She has most recently been named the 2017-2018 Geoffrey and Margaret Andrew Fellow at UBC.

Follow her on twitter @WordsandGuitar.

 

WHY ME?

Ancestors,

 

Why me?

This is an updated question to the one I invariably asked—“What does that even

MEAN?”—when I was growing up and my mother periodically reminded me to

“remember who I was”.

 

Descendants,

 

You get to choose who you will become.

I am still learning this.

 

 

Born and raised in Calcutta, India, Ayesha Chatterjee has lived in England, the USA and Germany and now calls Toronto home. Her publisher, Bayeux Arts, has just released her second poetry collection, Bottles and Bones, available from the Bayeux website, Knife Fork Book  & other bookstores throughout North America.

Follow her on twitter here.

Photo: Katja Ganesh Photography