Smokii Sumac talks about poetry, identity and Queen’s Writer’s Residency

Nestled in Elgin, Ontario, Smokii Sumac spent two weeks at Queen’s Biological Station (QUBS), the university’s wildlife research facility, with two well-established Canadian authors.

On July 6, the writers got together with the Queen’s English Department, QUBS student and staff, and local poetry enthusiasts for an evening of great reading.

Sumac writes about identity, generational trauma, Indigenous culture, homosexuality, hope and fear in her encompassing poetry collection You Are Enough: Love Poems for the End of the World.

“I think to be a writer you have to be a little narcissistic, you have to be a little self-obsessed,” Sumac said. The newspaper. “We also have to completely depreciate each other, and also hate each other a little bit – there is a fluctuation between all of that.”

Sumac says her work is about her world and experiences as an adoptee, trans person, two-spirited person, recovering drug addict, and someone who has experienced grief and trauma.

“A lot of my work centers around the idea of ​​coming home,” Sumac said. “For a long time, I thought of it as coming home as an adoptee and an Indigenous person. Now I think about home in the body as a trans person and on my journey of recovery from addiction, back home in a sober and clear state.

Sumac has experience with spoken word poetry; his poems are performances that grab your attention and refuse to let go. Her intimate and deeply personal readings at QUBS clearly resonated with attendees – her and Stinzi’s novels sold out at the event.

Sumac explained how he often thinks spoken word performances suck the air out of the room. Although not every poet returns this tune to the public, he makes sure to do so because its content is often heavy and personal.

“I really have to keep space in this room with a group of people and my poetry, I think there’s something magical about this connection between the audience and the poet that we don’t get on the page “said Sumac.

Writers often use words as a creative outlet to understand the world around them and find solace in the chaos and peace in the uncontrollable.

Sumac paraphrased a quote from Timothy Findley to describe this feeling: “We write because we have to, we have to.

He felt that became especially true during the pandemic, when many argued that writers should thrive in the stay-at-home era.

“I had a conversation about this at QUBS with the other two writers, [but] we need life to happen, we need to interact, we need relationship.

Writers rely on the world around them to inform their creations, and in isolation the ability to do so is extremely limited. The residency, organized by the English department, offered a chance for contemplation and creation between the three writers.

Sumac took time to reflect on the Indigenous lands the site sits on, the conservation efforts of the center’s staff and students, and the emotions shared between the two parties.

As an Indigenous person, Sumac believes that all of her work is inherently political despite its connection to her personal experiences.

“It’s super interesting to me because while I can criticize colonialism, I can also recognize that the relationship scientists have with the land, and the grief they have seeing the impacts of climate change is tied to [the Indigenous community’s] grief too. »

Studying English in his undergraduate studies, Sumac’s early college career centered Shakespeare until his second and third years of college, when he was finally exposed to native literature and it “has opened up his world.

Sumac’s academic career later turned and focused on Indigenous studies and literature; he is currently a PhD candidate at Trent University on this topic.

“I work on homecoming stories, I work with representation – I basically believe that when we share our stories, we can come out of the pages and connect with each other to make each other feel less alone in our experiences.” Sumak said.

“For Indigenous students, trans students, and queer students, keep going. Find your people. And keep writing, it’s medicine.