Published by Black Moss Press in 2011, 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.