My tenure at MacEwan University as Writer-in-Residence has offered opportunities to connect with a vibrant, multi-faceted community.
Most wonderfully, the very day I introduced myself to the English department faculty, I was approached by Dr. Svitlana Krys, the Kule Chair in Ukrainian Studies, who offered to make at least one of my dreams come true. I wanted to host an event showcasing poetry and song in various languages, and she offered to sponsor the event.
On November 5th, we presented By Heart, a free event on campus, that brought together writers, singers, artisans of language, to present works in Arabic, Cree, Hindi, Mandarin, Mi’gmaq, Panjabi, Spanish, Ukrainian, Urdu, and of course, English.
Doing work like this lifts up my own heart, as I witness the generosity of spirit in which people offer their voices, speaking and singing of things that matter. We created and held a space in which to hear languages we might not understand in our heads, but whose meanings, nonetheless, we could recognise by feel, by tone, by mood… by heart.
We didn’t solve global crises, we didn’t overcome all the barriers that break and damage us. We didn’t even leave knowing everyone else’s name, despite sharing a stage. But we shared song and ideas and visions of our world together, and that’s good in and of itself.
In fact, it was wonderful, and we hope to do it again.
Here I am with Luciana Erregue-Sacchi(l) and Nermeen Youssef(r) – we love to play in multiple languages together, and call ourselves ‘Ladies First’ – closing the show with ‘Graces,’ our Arabic/Mi’gmaq/Spanish medley centring the South American anthem, Violeta Parra’s Gracias a la Vida.
The song begins, ‘Thank You to Life, that has given me so much…. ‘ and ends (you’ll pardon my paraphrastic translation)
‘Life has given me laughter and weeping, and let me distinguish the truth amid the complaints, that these two things make up my song, and your song, the song we all share… Thank You to Life.‘
Wherever and however you are as you read this, truly I wish you that, that you can hear and feel blessed by the great Song. You are part of the Big Ceremony, on the team, alive, and this world is the more beautiful for your being.
All My Relations