________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 16 . . . . April 14, 2000

cover Blueberry Clouds.

Rita Bouvier.
Saskatoon, SK: Thistledown Press, 1999.
64 pp., pbk., $8.95.
ISBN 1-895449-97-9.

Subject Heading:
Indians of North America-Canada, Western-Poetry.

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.
Review by Terry Vatrt.

*** /4

The final poem of this collection is, in part, a synopsis of this first book of poetry by emerging Metis writer, Rita Bouvier.



I write experience
a Metis woman
a contemporary woman
in the process of becoming
I write a mirror
a glimpse of myself
if you catch yourself in me
or a part of the dance
it is intentional
I write a Shakespearean soliloquy
a lament for the human condition
I write a Smartian
By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept
I write the last word
a balance
to regain locus of control
I write inspiration
a meaning, a purpose to go on
I write simply
a story that recreates

Bouvier sets wide-ranging goals for her writing. This book of poetry attempts many of those things, and, at times, succeeds. She does, indeed, write of her experiences, which reflect images of herself, her Metis culture and the human condition. She writes simply and with the power to illuminate. Especially poignant is the poem "Epikwetamapiyan" which is Cree for "I am sitting here lost-broken hearted."


A blue moon rises
from the depths of longing
there is no place
that feels like home
the city has just become
another place
out of time
and the bush
is desperate
for yesterday.

Her struggles are memorably and efficiently described in these lines from "When Time and Space Collapse."


Tonight I am tired
Rosa Parks tired
of giving in
to polite conversation

The serious topics are balanced by several humourous poems. My favourite is "A Good Story to Tell" wherein Bouvier highlights the ingenuity of a Cree woman and pokes fun at the police.

In essence, Blueberry Clouds feels like a first collection of poetry. The writer's aspirations are admirable, and she partially attains her goals. The volume feels too slim. The thematic focus feels too broad. I would have preferred more poems about fewer topics.

Quibbles about her scatter-gun approach to subject aside, [and one glaring editing glitch of it's rather than its!] I recommend this book. It could readily complement an existing poetry unit. Several of the poems are suitable for oral reading to students. A few of the poems could serve as subjects for small-group discussions and/or written student responses. In her poem "Poetry," Ms Bouvier defines poetry as...


....the fate
of the silver fox
now stretched inside-out
conforming to the shape
of it's [sic] wooden frame
the inside layer
of skin exposed
traces of wounds
tissue hardened
a healing
of some sort
a lifeline rich
yet ordinary

Blueberry Clouds would be useful as a resource for Aboriginal Studies. I found the glimpses of the Mechif language intriguing. In the poem, "A Conversation with Peter Gzowski," Bouvier defines her mother tongue as:


a language
whose base is Cree
with a whole bunch
of French thrown in
for good measure
Kipaha la porte! I say

Direct translations of the Mechif language and brief comments are conveniently included alongside the poems.

Blueberry Clouds has a place in high school classrooms and school libraries and would serve as supplementary materials for poetry units and Aboriginal studies units.


Terry Vatrt is a teacher on leave of absence from Winnipeg School Division #1.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364