Ceremony, community and connection – the poems of Once the Smudge is Lit carry the reader into deeply spiritual elements of Nishnaabe/Ojibwe culture. Co-written by Cole Forrest and Kelsey Bogford, the poetry of Once the Smudge is Lit highlights the Indigenous experience in post-colonial times through explorations of themes ranging from love to community. Bogford’s and Forrest’s verses seek to open multiple windows into the experience of being Nishaabe in the modern world. A profound sense of movement and continuity is emphasized by Tessa Pizzale’s beautifully evocative illustrations, which include a line of smudge smoke flowing from page to page.
i swim to the bottom of the ocean
to try and recreate the world
i am tired of hurting
my fist gripped tight onto the mud
as i held my breath
sand fell through my fingers as the waves washed it away
mother earth spoke to me
she told me all that I need is already here on the surface
look a little deeper,
love a little longer
—Kelsey Borgford, Once the Smudge is Lit
my body’s brief time in this life
yearns for your soft skin
I’ll lend you my heart
I’ll melt it down and rub the oils on your chest to help you breathe again
I’ll light a smudge from my heart and wash your hair in the smoke as it plumes in the moonlight the water will see only us as we rest tangled in this life together rest with me on the mattress
we’ll make a cradleboard together we’ll sew our secrets into the bed frame
—Cole Forrest, Once the Smudge is Lit
Kelsey Borgford is a Nbisiing Nishnaabekwe from the Marten clan. She is an emerging author, passionate about utilizing writing as a tool to revitalize cultural connections. After losing her Gokomis-baa in 2014, Kelsey sought out a means of connection with her grandmother and found that connection to her through the arts. Kelsey’s work aims to pass along cultural traditions and identity. Her work is predominantly centered in the practice of beading and writing. She has a children’s book, What’s in a Bead, forthcoming from Second Story Press. In all aspects of her creativity, Kelsey draws inspiration from her culture, her mother, her community, and relatives in the natural world.
Cole Forrest is an Ojibwe filmmaker and programmer from Nipissing First Nation. They have written and directed independent short films that have been screened at film festivals including imagineNATIVE, TQFF, and the Vancouver International Film Festival. Cole is a recipient of the Ken and Ann Watts Memorial Scholarship and of the James Bartleman Indigenous Youth Creative Writing Award. They were the 2019 recipient of the imagineNATIVE + LIFT Film Mentorship and a 2020 Artist in Residence as a part of the Sundance Native Filmmakers Lab.Cole has supported programming at festivals including TIFF, imagineNATIVE, and Fabulous Festival of Fringe Film. They are a graduate of the Video Design and Production program at George Brown College. Cole is currently writing their first feature film. They are grateful to represent their community in all artistic pursuits.
Illustrator Tessa Pizzale is a Moose Cree Indigenous Artist located in North Bay, Ontario. She is currently working on her Bachelors of Fine arts at Nipissing University. Tessa creates work pieces through digital and art pieces. She also works on creating leather regalia belts.