We’re all familiar with the First World of capitalist nations, the Second World of communism and the Third World of poor and underdeveloped countries. In 1974, Shuswap Chief George Manuel published The Fourth World: an Indian Reality in recognition of the third of the world population of indigenous peoples who don’t fit, and aren’t recognized, within the model of the Three Worlds. To these, Sewell adds a Fifth World, for those, like her, whose heritage crosses between worlds.
Shortlisted – Alberta Reader’s Choice Award , 2010
Anna Marie Sewell’s debut collection is a horse of a different colour, clambers to a clatter of different hooves with equal élan. A more performance-based, declamatory poetry, sometimes – with a wicked back beat born of the age of rock ‘n’ roll, Nuyirican, slam, Beat, and aboriginal ghost dance trance… Not the kitschy aboriginal rattles and moccasin soft-shoe of urban aboriginal after pre-European roots, but the real mean deal: of the land but not denying cityscape and multi-media, multi-ethnicity…Matrilineally of Slavic descent; a Status Indian whose aboriginal heritage comes from a First Nation to which she does not officially belong, Ms. Sewell has developed the slinky moves to slide like smoke over or under most barricades. I particularly like her suite of poems set in Korea, where the social observer and elfin dancer both step lightly through the morass.
Throughout this book, Sewell shines as a poet. The content is what drew me, but her delivery and skill are what kept me revisiting the work. Her poems will appeal to anyone who has ever walked a bridge between two cultures, as well as to readers in love with strong diction, or a well-placed word on the page… Fifth World Drum reminds me that our stories are worth telling even if we can never know all the words.
Re: the poem “Thunderstorms.” I kept returning to its carnality, its cancer scars, its phantom cannibals living in the outhouse, its unbridled Freudian mayhem. Raw, wide-eyed and palpably electric, this is wonderful stuff, and I look forward to reading more of it from Anna Marie Sewell.
Poet Anna Marie Sewell, when asked where she is from, responds, “There are so many true answers.” Her answers are delivered in lines of poetry that resonate like musical notes, chords, drum beats and rattles. In an increasingly populous and multicultural world where bureaucratic forces doggedly prescribe categories to human diversity and expression, Anna Marie dismantles these false social constructions of personal identity and human capacity through language that is variously inventive, clear and soulful, and through image that is whimsical and highly imaginative. The seeker in these poems surveys lands, cultures and belief systems in Japan, China, Korea, Mexico and Canada, particularly Aboriginal “Canada” with a vision that is uncompromisingly original.
Anna Marie Sewell is a wanderer. With grace and warmth, she explores “a world I know as solid and strong, a territory of new possibilities.” As an indigenous poet with Mi’gmaq roots, and Slavic relatives too, Sewell moves easily across the cultural borderlines that inhibit other people. Her poems drift from the warm kitchens of Eskasoni, to the prairies outside Saskatoon at twilight; from a dusty road to the pow-wow at Poundmaker’s, to a moonlit skinny dip in the Okanagan. Everywhere she goes, she searches for unlikely intersections, and she finds them. I love Sewell’s poems because she describes the Canada I crave – intimate, beautiful, brave, forgiving.
About the Author
Anna Marie Sewell is an Edmonton writer who performs theatre, prose and song. A Status Indian by Canadian government standards, Sewell sees her heritage as far more complex and varied. Her 2007 Honour Songs project was part of Edmonton’s Cultural Capital initiative and she edited the 2009 Stroll of Poets Anthology. Fifth World Drum is her first book-length collection of poetry.
Anna Marie Sewell writes a blog, Fifth World Journal at,http://asewell.frontenachouse.com