This month, we shine the spotlight on Smokii Sumac, author of you are enough: love poems for the end of the world. We caught up with Smokii recently and learned about some amazing new projects he is currently working on.
Kegedonce Press: What has changed for you, with regards to poetry and writing, since publishing you are enough?
Smokii Sumac: you are enough is a collection of poems written almost daily over the span of two years. I would love to say I continued that practice, however, once the book came out, I actually ended up writing less and less, especially in recent years with the pandemic. I think sometimes creative folks need breaks, and I’m grateful that I took space, and tried on some other jobs. In 2023, however, I have returned to my creative practices and am working on new work. While poetry still makes me happy, and I still post on social media regularly, I am working on different written mediums lately.
KP: What role does your poetry play for you, either in your life or out there in the world or both?
SS: Poetry gifts me with the ability to connect. Whether that is connecting with someone reading my poem and witnessing or experiencing a feeling that they have felt before, but perhaps could not name, or if it’s myself reading a poem that reaches out of the page and into my heart, I appreciate poetry for capturing something familiar. I can’t answer this question without drawing your attention to one of my poems from you are enough [“there are hierarchies of grief”] that was recently animated by Atimekw animator, Meky Ottawa, which is now available on CBC Gem.
This experience of collaborating with an animator, a musician (G.R. Gritt did the music for the animation), and producers, Christa Couture and Michele St. John, has really reminded me of the power of poetry. What was once simply my words on a page, became something new. We were also able to translate this work in Ktunaxa (Ktunaxa version available here) and I have learned so much about my own words and work through this process. Now that it’s out in the world, I hope that folks who know grief will find it and feel that connection–the power of knowing we are not alone, even in some of the loneliest experiences like that of grief.
KP: What are you working on now?
I try to keep up with poetry on social media (Instagram @smokiisumac) still regularly, although it’s much less often than it used to be. This is because I’m happy to share that I’ve been selected for the National Queer and Trans Playwriting Unit, which involves nine theatres in Canada, and is led by ZeeZee theatre in Vancouver. So, I have followed some incredible Indigenous playwrights into the world of Theatre! I’m also happy to be working on my new podcast project: the ʔasqanaki podcast, which was generously funded by the Canada Council for the Arts. It is a podcast featuring Indigenous artists and musicians and the Ktunaxa concept behind it: ʔasqanaki, means to tell two versions of the same story. It will be coming out later this spring, so keep an eye out at smokiisumac.com for more!
You can listen to Smokii’s CBC radio interview about his video in the “How to Lose Everything” series here: (41:20 min. mark).
Smokii’s book, you are enough: love poems for the end of the world is moving, poignant, occasionally funny and powerfully insightful. Its poems reflect on gender, identity, sex, addiction and recovery, and finding one’s way home. Smokii introduces readers to people and places he has loved and learned from, and through it all, helps us come to know that we are enough, just as we are. you are enough won the 2019 Indigenous Voices Award in Published English-language Poetry.