February 15, 2008
Louise Halfe – Healing Through Orality and
Spirituality in Poetry
Louise Bernice Halfe was born in 1953 in Two Hills, Alberta. Her Cree name is SkyDancer. She grew up a member of the Saddle Lake Reserve and at the age of 7 was sent to the Blue Quills Residential School in St. Paul, Alberta. . After leaving the school at the age of 16, she attended St. Paul’s Regional High School where she began to journal about her life experiences. (McNally Robinson) Halfe has a degree in Social Work from the University of Regina, as well as training in drug and addiction counseling (Moses and Goldie 396). In 1990, she made her first appearance as a poet in Writing the Circle: Native Women of Western Canada. Her other works include Bear Bones and Feather which received the Canadian Peoples Poet Award and Blue Marrow which was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award for Poetry. The Crooked Good is her latest novel which has just been published. In January of 2005, Halfe was named Saskatchewan’s poet Laureate. She currently lives in Saskatoon with her husband and has two grown children. (McNally Robinson)
“I write because I love. I write for the survival of self, my children, my family, my community and for the Earth. I write to help keep our stories, our truths, our language alive”. (qtd. in Anthology 396.) This quote describes how Louise Halfe uses all four common elements of native literature in her writings. I have chosen to discuss two of the elements she frequently uses, Spirituality and Orality in relation to three of her poems: My Ledders, She Told Me and The Heat of my Grandmothers. Orality is used widely in Halfe’s poetry. In My Ledders she writes as if it were being spoken, using phonetic spelling. It is written in the form of a letter from a native woman to the Pope. She starts the poem “dear pope i no, i no, you dired of my ledders i couldn’t let dis one go i...