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Friday June 16, 2017 in Books
Coming November 2017
In 1879, Louis Riel was elected chief of a band of Métis buffalo hunters who wintered at Flat Willow Creek in northwestern Montana Territory. At the time, he was in exile from his beloved province of Manitoba, which Riel had helped to create through the Manitoba Act of 1870. His exile had begun in August 1870, following the arrival of armed forces to the Red River colony, when he had fled to the United States. Riel, fearing for his life – there was a five-thousand-dollar price on his head – could not take his duly elected seat in Parliament. He was formally banished from Canada in January 1875 for a period of five years. Riel’s exile was not only political but also social: single, far from home – his family and his people – he was unable to find employment, although talented and highly educated, because of his race. He left the eastern United States in early 1878 and headed for the final frontier in Montana.
The one thing Riel continuously did, from the age of fourteen when he started school in Montreal until shortly before his execution, was write poetry. Unfortunately, historians have dismissed most of his poems as “little more than doggerel,” insisting on a comparison of his work with that of Keats, an unreasonable comparison for a poet trained in the formal French style. This cultural difference may have turned many poets away from Riel’s work. While working on another project, translator and editor Michael Barnholden came across a previously unknown text by Riel: a poem written in the Regina jail just before his execution. As both a poet and historian, Barnholden saw something more. A careful reading of Riel’s poetic work revealed to him not only the 481-line masterpiece “To Sir John A.” but a sequence of poems written between 1878 and 1883, a period when Riel lived the traditional life of a Métis buffalo hunter. It is in these poems that Riel commits to print the intellectual and spiritual development of the concept of a “New Nation” for the Métis people.
ISBN 13: 9781772011760 | ISBN 10:
5.5 W x 8.5 H inches | 176 pages
$19.95 CAN / $16.95 US
Poetry | Frontlist
About the ContributorsMichael Barnholden
Michael Barnholden holds a Master of Arts degree in Liberal Sciences from Simon Fraser University, and is associate director of Humanities 101 at the University of British Columbia. A member of the board of the Kootenay School of Writing, managing editor of the literary magazine West Coast LINE, Barnholden is the author of several books of poetry and non-fiction, including Reading the Riot Act (Anvil Press, 2005) and Circumstances Alter Photographs (Talonbooks 2009).
We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts; the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF); and the Province of British Columbia through the British Columbia Arts Council for our publishing activities.