Smokii Sumac's poetry goes to the hard places with generosity and care

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You Are Enough: Love Poems for the End of the World, Smokii Sumac’s debut poetry collection, is a place to rest awhile and find honest expressions of hope, grief, rage and falling in love. In You are Enough, the specificity of daily life in Michi Saagig territory (coffee and the Odenabe) moves alongside broader Indigenous experiences and knowledges, respecting diversity at all times.

The poet reveals himself to us through detailed impressions about what makes up a home, trans/2S sexuality and consent, and the difficulty of overcoming alcoholism -- all with staggering generosity. The openness with which Sumac invites us into his world provokes reciprocal openness in the reader. Even as he focuses our gaze on the Coulten Boushie and Tina Fontaine trials, Standing Rock, Orlando, Trudeau and the RCMP, Sumac brings in supports. Many relatives show their faces -- Grandmother Moon, Father Sky, the four sacred medicines. There is heart work to be done here, if the reader is willing.

You are Enough is dedicated "for the warriors." And this collection of poems adds muscle and medicine to struggle. The warriors Sumac represents are land and water protectors, ancestors, wise women, two-spirit folks, and Indigenous people across generations -- maybe each of us.

I want to carry this poetry collection in my bag like a manual. Like a companion for doing the difficult parts of life, heart open. Sumac's poetry collection is not a guidebook exactly, but is more like having a good talk, all night long, with an empathetic and funny friend, medicine in pockets, pets entering the room once in awhile. Sumac goes to the hard places with you. And the sensual places. And he takes you for a swim or two.

The volume offers words that call governments to responsibility:

would mean Indigenous youth
growing up alive
will you reconcile?
abolish rcmp
give us safety

Words for those who would be allies:

do not speak unless you are absolutely certain that your words can reach
into our gunshot wounds and stop the bleeding. Do not act unless you
know that your action will hold the pieces of us all together.

Words for transitioning two-spirit people:

I consider what it means to write erotic poems about my dick…
My best friend brings me to the reason I write: "but would you want to
Hear another trans poet read that poem?"

I would

As Sumac takes us through seasons -- jacket weather, bear cub moon, dirty leaves -- we are invited to scoop up lessons and bring them into our own homes and selves, which have been freshened by Sumac’s poetic eye so that they too feel quite like poems.

From Sumac, I am learning and remembering that "medicine tears soften this hard and angry world," that "we are necessary by way of our creation," that we should visit one another, that the moon looks on us without judgement, that it is always good to make an offering, that falling in and out of love is turbulent and wonderful, that we can be honest with ourselves and with one another.

I am learning and remembering that the work of being in relationship takes great care and that the work of this care is a high and powerful calling. I am learning and remembering that all our relatives are along for the ride.

Jenn Cole (Mixed-Ancestry Algonquin Anishinaabe) is an Indigenous feminist performance scholar and performer from Kiji Sibi watershed territory. She lives in Nogojiwanong, in Michi Saagig territory where she is also Assistant Professor in Gender and Women's Studies at Trent University. 

This review originally appeared in Muskrat Magazine and is reprinted here with permission.

Image: Spoken Word Canada

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