2016 Compendium of Poems: Found Poetry.
These poems represent the personal, professional, and passionate thoughts of a group of preservice teachers who reflected on the state of Indigenous language loss in their homes, communities, and schools. They ring clearly of a call to action and also speak to the profound loss of languages.
This “Found Poem” activity was part of an online course, EDEL 412: Teaching Language Arts in First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Contexts, where the students became informed about the local and timely issue of Indigenous language and cultural identity. The students watched several language-preservation videos, read articles by many authors on the topic (see references at the end of the compendium), and worked to frame and articulate the levels of personal, spiritual, historical, and educational repercussions where language and identity converge. The students then compiled this gleaned information into their own personal ‘found poem’: a collection or collage of significant phrases, words, and images from the readings and videos that resonated with them. As part of this online class, they worked through their poems in a writer’s workshop and read and gave feedback to each other on their poems in a small online discussion forum. They received feedback from their instructor and the teaching assistant and then revised their poems to send to a small new online group of their classmates for further input. The authors then decided on the final form and content of their individual poems and voluntarily submitted them for this compendium.
From our perspectives, we believe that these poems work very well to distil the essence of both Indigenous identity and language and the classroom-teacher-to-be impressions of that, as seen through the eyes of this group of northern preservice teachers, into rather moving and powerful expressions that can be read from several levels. We hope that in reading these poems, you find a space where they resonate with you as well.
Part of the professional side of teaching practice requires us all as teachers to be aware of and sensitive to the culture of our students. This is an especially vital task in the area of language and literacy, particularly with young learners. In these formative years, the use of and access to a variety of languages, both at school and in the community, have been evidenced as very strong predictors of cognitive and academic achievement. However, across the world and in our country, the languages and cultures indigenous to this geography have lost their vitality through oppression, assimilation, and subsequent marginalization by the powerful political, religious, and education forces and the effects of Canadian colonialism. In turn, and especially in communities such as those in which these preservice teachers will soon be working, substantial language shift has occurred over the past decades as extended families gradually lose access to their Indigenous heritage through both choice and lack of exposure and, consequently, to the roots of their cultural identity. These found poems speak to that history and personal loss as they demonstrate a voice for a renewed awareness and effort for language revitalization.