Monday, April 12, 2010

Pauline Johnson

Pauline Johnson (1861–1914) was born on the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford, Ontario. Her Mother was English, and her father a Mohawk chief. Sometimes going by her Indian name of Tekahionwake, she was the first native poet to have her work published in Canada, and was one of a very few women in the country, at the turn of the century, who could make her living by what she wrote and performed. She toured Canada extensively, and also performed in the US and Britain.

Her best-known poem is “The Song My Paddle Sings”; it captures well the peaceful rhythm of a canoe trip, in stanzas such as:
-----The river rolls in its rocky bed;
-----My paddle is plying its way ahead;
-----Dip, dip,
-----While the waters flip
-----In foam as over their breast we slip.
Her poetry often celebrates her native heritage, and Canada’s natural beauty. Pauline Johnson’s work sometimes reflects her Christian faith, as demonstrated by the following poem.

A Prodigal

My heart forgot its God for love of you,
And you forgot me, other loves to learn;
Now through a wilderness of thorn and rue
Back to my God I turn.

And just because my God forgets the past,
And in forgetting does not ask to know
Why I once left His arms for yours, at last
Back to my God I go.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: www.dsmartin.ca