‘And so this being the time of manifestos, here is mine: that poetry, at its best, does not speak on behalf of the self. It speaks on behalf of the Other. It speaks on behalf of community. It speaks the self only in so far as the self is part of something larger,’ Kei Miller wrote in The Poetry Review
His declaration bears a resemblance to a number of ideas I grappled with as I prepared and edited Resisting Canada: An Anthology of Poetry
, published in September 2019 by Véhicule Press of Montreal. The twenty-eight contributors address a plethora of ills resulting from the statecraft of a settler-colonial enterprise, i.e., Canada. Miller’s manifesto takes up poetry’s capacity to bear witness – perhaps to injustice, or to a measure of social agency. It underscores a distinction between the enduring legacy of the egotistical sublime of the English Romantics – ‘on behalf of self’ poems and confessional poetry, which narrate an individual, and poetry with a view to collective consciousness, a politics not necessarily exclusively of identity and identity’s fraught subjective realities, but telling ‘history from below,’ of a collective identity ready to present such a history.
Many of the poets I included in the anthology address the myriad ways Indigenous Peoples, who lived on the land called Turtle Island before colonisers arrived from Europe, have been dispossessed. They still live here, and they are still being colonised. The poets examine, inter alia
, the fallout of shameful Canadian institutions such as residential schools, and the violence against Indigenous women and girls that is a legacy of the originally racist assumptions that accrued over