Poetry for Change

Sheri-D Wilson, who calls herself The Mama of Dada, is an award-winning spoken word poet, educator, speaker and activist, who has performed in literary, film and folk music festivals in Canada, USA, England, France, Mexico, Belgium, and South Africa. She is the author of nine collections of poetry.

Her most recent – ninth poetry collection, Open Letter: Woman Against Violence Against Women, tackles difficult terrain. Conceived from improvisation, this collage of poems culminates in a flood poem as the desecration of the earth is compared to the treatment of women. Throughout the work a drumbeat, a heartbeat, a healing chant pervades. Open Letter was nominated for the Robert Kroetsch Poetry Award and the ReLit Award.

Wilson has two spoken word CDs (arranged by Russell Broom), and four award-winning video poems including: “Airplane Paula” (2001), “Spinsters Hanging in Trees” (2002), all produced for the Bravo network’s Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent (FACT).

Wilson says she can’t imagine doing anything other than poetry. In an article called “Dimepiece” she wrote, “My mind automatically goes to poetry, almost as though I think in poetry — it defers to poetry. Poetry is my brain’s default. Reading poetry and hearing it said aloud brings me great joy. First poetry transforms the individual — then it changes the community. It is a political action. It takes action. Poetry makes people think.”

Wilson will be a mentor at at this year’s Young Authors Conference in Whitehorse.

“I always loved interesting words, ideas and images,” she says. “I never really wanted to be a writer – I just loved to write.

She credits Anne Waldman, one of her teachers, for affirming her direction.

“(She) christened me like a knight. At the time she also explained the responsibility.”

The notion of responsibility leads her to approach her work with certain concerns in mind, though these are not fixed.

“It changes all of the time, as I respond to my environment. Right now I use personal narrative to address themes of social justice, lost languages, bullying, violence against women and the earth. I also believe in giving back and in the development of community.”

Since she pours herself and her issues into her work, she says, “(I write) with all that I am and all that I have.”

She’s bringing that personal approach to her experience of the territory during this visit.

“I love the Yukon – the earth – the sky – her people. This is poetry – and there will be poetry.”

As a workshop leader with young writers she says in poetic style, that she expects to have the following types of experiences: “Playful Joyous * Discoveries * Of Curiosity * In Willing Exchange * Sometimes Wild * Sometimes Silly * Sometimes Profound * Usually Resonant.

“I look forward to sharing.”

She tells young writers to read and listen.

“Listen to your grandparents if you have them – write down what they say. Write down images of your life right now as if you are the only one keeping this history. Write what you would like to read.”

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