Do Not Call Me By My Name
by Lisa Shatzky



Black Moss Press, 2011. ISBN 978-0-887-53491-1.
Reviewed by Mary Ann Moore
Posted on 12/08/2011

Poetry

Lisa Shatzky, in her introduction to her first book of poetry, calls her poems "terrible and sad" but also "human and necessary." She dedicates them "to all of Canada's First Nations' people who suffered at the hands of the Canadian Government's Residential School System." This began in the mid to late 1800's, when First Nations children were forcibly removed from their families, their homes, their customs and language to live in church-run boarding schools and continued for more than a century.

As a trauma therapist in contact with First Nations communities along the coast of British Columbia for seventeen years, Shatzky has listened to the stories of many people, and has "been inspired by their resilience and incredible sense of spirit."

Residential school survivors have told their own stories and that has been part of their healing. I realize, though, it's not their responsibility to educate people so as to let them know about the multigenerational impact of the suffering, and so it is important that we who didn't experience the abuse first hand, speak out.

As Simon James, a First Nations artist and storyteller who wrote an endorsement for the book says: "People keep forgetting about the past, especially a past that does not belong to them. If we do not remember the past, we are destined to make those mistakes again." He thanks Lisa Shatzky for making "these memories available to those who would never know."

I didn't find myself thinking, are these "good" poems, but rather what is awakened and acknowledged when one reads them? People who have suffered trauma have said that the silence around the trauma, as if it never happened, has been the worst pain to bear.

In the first poem in the collection, "Children Lost," the poet asks what to do with the face of the children and the stories that "have entered me / by chance, like the small rain / of a coastal forest in early spring?" What she did was write poems of the stories as well as "hear them when the moon falls / on nights luminous and transparent / and weeping in my hands."

References to nature in the poems are not to create a pretty picture, although they do soften the impact of the contents; they are a way to find solace and beauty, something constant and ever renewing. Although the Earth "weeps for all of us" as described in "The Earth Weeps, "the Earth knows how to heal herself."

There's a bluntness and frankness about the poems. Nothing is made pretty and adjectives are rare. The spare lines tell of decades of profound loss as in "The Elders": "When you take away / a people's children, / the elders lose / their stories."

The book is grey with black endpapers, which befits a solemn occasion of loss. Sometimes there is color in the poems such as: "a little girl in a blue summer / dress with pink smiling suns / on the sleeves" in "Finding the Child." Sometimes the color is a mix of ink and blood when a young man "carves long deep lines on his arms . . . . to feel pain instead of nothing" in "Derek's Blood Rituals."

I couldn't help but be saddened by the poems and angered too by the residential school system and its long-lasting effects. In "Blackberries" the poet writes: "Even in grief there is song. / Even when pieces of the heart / are broken and taken / the heart carries on." It's that courageous spirit that I take away with me after reading these poems.


Lisa Shatzky was born in Montreal and has lived in Vancouver and Bowen Island, British Columbia for the past twenty-one years. Her poetry has been published in many literary journals and anthologies in Canada and the United States. When not writing, she works as a trauma therapist and runs marathons, kayaks, and wanders among ancient trees.

Authors/Publicists: For promotion purposes, you may quote excerpts of up to 200 words from our reviews, with a link to the page on which the review is posted. ©Copyright to the review is held by the writer (review posting date appears on the review page). If you wish to reprint the full review, you may do so ONLY with her written permission, and with a link to http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org. Contact our Book Review Editor (bookreviews at storycirclebookreviews.org) with your request and she will forward it to the appropriate person.

       
   
StoryCircleBookReviews provides a review venue for women author-publishers and for women's work published by independent and university presses.


Email me with news about your book reviews



Sarton Women's Book Award


Your ad could be here.
Advertise with us!


   

Visit us on Facebook and Twitter and goodreads.





Buy books online through amazon.com by simply clicking on the book cover or title. Your purchase will support our work of encouraging all women to tell their stories.
This title is currently available ONLY as an e-book
#visitors: