Friday, August 23, 2019

I Wish I'd Written This


this land is not
just a place to set my house my car my fence

this land is not
just a plot to bury my dead my seed

this land is
my tongue     my eyes     my mouth

this headstrong grass and relenting willow
these flat-footed fields and applauding leaves
these frank winds and electric sky

are my prayer
they are my medicine
and they become my song

this land is not
just a platform for my dance

Marilyn Dumont

This poem speaks to me, as a lover of the land who recognizes we are only one part of the natural world. We non-aboriginal folk are belatedly learning this truth, as we experience what our attempt to dominate nature has done to the environment. Our interdependence is well understood by  First Nations, who have lived in harmony and respect with Mother Earth for millennia.

"Not Just a Platform for My Dance" is taken from the reprinting of Ms Dumont's first book of poems, A Really Good Brown Girl. Ms Dumont is of  Cree-Metis ancestry, and is a writer and educator. She grew up in Alberta, and has been writer-in-residence at universities across Canada. The poet is a descendant of Gabriel Dumont, a military and political leader of the Metis in the 19th century.

Reading A Really Good Brown Girl, I was moved by the close family life depicted in her poems. Ms Dumont does not hesitate, in her work, to address the issue of racial prejudice,  a sad fact of life in Canada. She writes of "the mystery of the white judges who sat encircling our two-storey schoolhouse", ready to judge, and I applaud her strength and clarity in putting words to this issue.

This book won the League of Canadian Poets Gerald Lampert Memorial Award for the best first book of poetry by a Canadian writer. Her second book, Green Girl Dreams Mountains,  won the Stephan Stephansson Award from the Writer's Guild of Alberta and the Alberta Book Award for Poetry. And her third, That Tongued Belonging, won the McNally Robinson Aboriginal Book of the Year award. Her work has appeared widely in publications and anthologies. I hope you enjoy this introduction.


I have carried your pain     in metal buckets and
I still go for water     every so often
and that water     is so cold and hard
that it stings my hands,     its weight makes me feel
my arms will break     at the shoulders and yet
I go to that well     and drink from it     because
I am, as you,     made of water

Material shared in 'I Wish I'd Written This' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings remain the property of the copyright owners, usually their authors.


  1. I too wish I'd written this, Sherry. But I couldn't, its beauty is beyond my talents, if any; its truths are beyond my appreciation. But appreciate and respect I do, on my shelf it will reside beside "A Tree" by Joyce Kilmer. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  2. What wonderful poems! We are often advised to beware of adjectives, as they tend to weaken rather than strengthen a piece of writing – yet her adjectives for the plants: 'this headstrong grass and relenting willow / these flat-footed fields and applauding leaves / these frank winds and electric sky' are so fresh, original and unexpected that they become the crux of the poem. Remarkable!

  3. Yes. Powerful and poetic truths. And I also agree with what Rosemary wrote. Than k you, Sherry.

  4. I agree - such amazing descriptions! I love Ms Dumont's poetry so much. Love the reminder that the land is a living being - not just something we walk on, build on, ravage and invade. Sigh.

  5. At a time such as this I appreciate these inspirational poems. Ms. DuMont is not only a good Canadian citizen, but a true citizen of this world. Thank you for introducing her to us. I wish I'd written this too, or at least to write a little more like Ms. DuMont.

  6. I love your writing, Myrna. You have a similar love of the land - especially your friends, the mountains, outside your window. Through you, I have come to know and love them, too.

  7. Marilyn Dumont's poetry is clear and concise, and I appreciate her messages. I really like "This land is not just a platform for my dance." It speaks to a deep love and appreciation of the land and all below. I am thinking about the second poem....and wondering if her last line is saying that we all are the same - all made of water - that the color of our skin does not make a difference. Thank you for featuring this interesting poet, Sherry! I enjoyed 'meeting' her.

  8. So happy you enjoyed meeting her, Mary. Yes, we are all the same, all human beings. I will never understand why people dont grasp that simple fact.

  9. You've featured 2 very compelling and layered pieces here, Sherry. Addressing prejudice through poetry, is a profoundly important function of writing - and, clearly Ms. Dumont speaks to that issue so well. I see why her work has been honoured so meritoriously. Thank you so much for the introduction.

  10. Love the poems, especially the first. So very timely...

  11. Thank you for sharing the work of this poet. Considering what we are doing to the land and the environment, this is so timely.
    "We are made of Water" reminds me of a recent poem you posted, Sherry. :)

  12. I also admire (and share) Ms Dumont's planetary obsession. If we --and our work-- are not somehow triggered by some sort of vista, inspired by some landscape (either real, experienced only internally or merely imagined) then we're wandering an empty world and the void will be visible on the page.


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