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Book review: The Sky Watched: Poems of Ojibwe Lives

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Reviewed by Karl Hele

Linda LeGarde Grover’s The Sky Watched: Poems of Ojibwe Lives is a moving collection of poems that reflects the Anishinaabeg of the Western Great Lakes’s experience and way of seeing the world. Her work is divided into Four parts: Part 1: Oshkabinoojiinh awi, explores the Ojibwe spirit and world view; Part 2: Abinoojiinh awi, traces the Indian Residential School experience and its effects; Part 3: Anishinaabewi, is a reflection of life after boarding schools as our communities breathed new life into quieted traditions while searching and sometimes finding what was lost; and Part 4: Gichi-Anishinaabewi, ties the threads of the early sections into an exploration of contemporary issues. Thus, the collection is born, rises through childhood into adulthood, before returning and reflecting on life in elderhood. It is a brilliant framing of experience, while imparting values, lessons, and knowledge, through joy, pain, and rebirth.

Grover’s poems emphasize individual and collective resilience, while offering critiques on the impact of colonization. Part 1’s poetry offers insightful explorations into Anishinaabeg culture, belief, and connection to the earth. The poetry of Part 2 deals with the harsh realities of experiences in educational institutions, both Residential and Day Schools. The images invoked bring you right into the schools, the classrooms, to see through the eyes of the children. It is a tough yet inspiring section because survivance and resiliency sit at the core of each poem. The materials in Part 3 can be as tough to read as Part 2, but the stories are inspiring as you see people recovering, growing, rebuilding, and moving forward, albeit some are lost.

In the final section, which deals with contemporary issues, is no less brilliant. For instance, in “Loss and a Question”, Grover questions the idea of land acknowledgements often spoken by Settlers. There is so much within this collection, it is easier to say that Grover’s poetry emphasizes the humility, generosity, and the overwhelming power of human (Anishinaabeg) spirit.

Grover’s The Sky Watched is a wonderful collection of Anishinaabeg poetry from a seasoned writer. It is easily accessible to everyone and will definitely speak to each reader differently depending on their perspective, lived experience, and cultural knowledge. If you are looking for a different way to explore, learn, or teach about Anishinaabeg experiences, voices, or culture, this is the book.

Linda LeGarde Grover, The Sky Watched: Poems of Ojibwe Lives. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2022.

ISBN: 1517914515

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Lead Facilitator – Circle Process

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ANISHINABEK NATION “To give a voice to the vision of the Anishinabek Nation and to preserve  Anishinaabe Bimaadziwin while advancing our goal of Nationhood.” Employment Opportunity LEAD FACILITATOR – CIRCLE […]

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Rice will serve as a mentor for program featuring budding Indigenous writers

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By Sam Laskaris SUDBURY – When Anishinabek writer Waubgeshig Rice found out he had a chance to serve as a mentor for young Indigenous writers he jumped at the opportunity. […]

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Inherent rights highlighted at the 8th annual Anishinabek Nation Lands and Resources Forum

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By Kelly Anne Smith NORTH BAY— Concerns of climate change, extreme mining claims, and the health of the Great Lakes were heard over three days at the 8th annual Anishinabek […]

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