#Canada150: And Finally, The Poem / Enfin, Le poème: ᑲᓇᑕᒥ, ᖃᖓᑴᑯᑦ ᓇᓪᓕᐅᑎᓲᖑᒐᕕᑦ?

Posted on June 28, 2013



version française ici

ᑲᓇᑕᒥ, ᖃᖓᑴᑯᑦ ᓇᓪᓕᐅᑎᓲᖑᒐᕕᑦ?

Ottawa! Last stop on my 2017StartsNow Artist-in-Motion journey. When I arrived in the city, I was still putting finishing touches on the poem, and I spent yet two more days and nights barely leaving my hotel room.

The concept for #2017poem changed a lot over the two months of my travels. It soon became clear that making a “crowdsourced poem” happen is a task much like getting people to vote online, or to sign an online petition. It sounds easy, asking people to tweet in content, but it is actually a big project of public engagement.

Also, by this point, the Ottawa event had gained momentum and was going to be so chock-full of speaking dignitaries and community leaders that whatever concept I had needed to work within about 8 minutes. So while I still believe that a crowdsourced work is an ideal form for our 150th birthday, a great form for gathering contributions from Canadians from shore to shore to shore, it became clear that the June 27 piece needed to be something more intimate.

I decided to try to speak in French and English at once. It was a voice very familiar to me: my brother and sister and I joke around in franglais a lot. But would it work to sum up the breadth of Canadian voices I had asked about our upcoming anniversary?

At about 3 p.m. during the rehearsal the day before the event, it was clear my poem was about 6 minutes too long. I had three hours to chop it down to size! And we had three hours to try to figure out an appropriate image or sequence to project behind me. And I had never used a teleprompter before. It was all quite thrilling.

The next day, the event at the War Museum was amazing: inspirational Canadians like Chantal Petitclerc and Lynda Thalie shared their stories amidst speeches from the Governor-General and the mayors of both Ottawa and Gatineau. I think I handled myself pretty well in the company of Evan Solomon, though I was too nervous before my performance to ask for a picture!

Finally, I heard the hosts say my name and it was time for me to come out on stage. I spoke and the words flowed and the audience seemed to stay with me. When it was over, I could feel the warmth coming back at me.

The title of the poem is: kanata, qangakkut nalliutisuungugavit? or, “Canada, when is your birthday?” in Inuktitut. I was proud and grateful for the chance to speak on the theme of indigeneity. The response of dozens of people who came up to me after the performance suggests that the audience was glad of it, too.

Honestly, I still haven’t brought myself to watch this in full yet. I’m not big on watching videos of me. Thank goodness I can just post the video here without having to stare at it myself!

Thank you for following all my blog posts and staying with me as I learned a ton about my country and myself on this incredible trip. Hope you enjoy.