People tell Sandra Lynn Lynxleg that her writing is brave. To her, writing is a way of expressing her truth.
Lynxleg is the district principal of aboriginal education in the Vernon school district. She’s also a poet, who will be releasing her first collection, Glass Beads, Monday at Vertigo Voices.
The collection is complied of the looking glass beads of Lynxleg’s life and experiences, which fellow poet Susan Musgrave says “speaks with a power not granted by our culture.”
Poet Wendy Morton, who worked with Lynxleg on a collaborative project between local aboriginal students and elders, said, “Lynxleg looks hard at her Aboriginal heritage, and her fine poems inform us… These are brave poems.”
Lynxleg, herself, seems a bit perplexed by all the talk of bravery.
“My sister called me brave. I didn’t understand how she saw this in my writing,” she said. “When I was 13, she took me aside and said to tell the truth because it happened. Lies didn’t. Poems are my truth. Truth as I know it.”
A status member of the Tootinaowaziibeeng reserve in Manitoba, Lynxleg was born in Halifax, N.S. and has lived in nearly every province. She holds both a bachelor of education and a master’s in creative writing from UBC.
Lynxleg began learning about Aboriginal history after 1979 and about residential schools while at university.
“I wasn’t raised Indian. I wasn’t raised white. (I) never lived on the reserve, only played, slept, ate, visited, and sun danced there (once),” she said.
It would be the Native Indian Teacher Education program at UBC that would begin Lynxleg’s journey towards the page, poetry, poets, and her publisher, Black Moss Press.
“It would take failing English literature courses; being told I couldn’t write my way out of a paper bag that would shut me down. Stop me. Feed my fear of voice and writing,” said Lynxleg, who credits Dr. Shirley Sterling, known as Seepeetza, in helping her to find another path to success.
“She gave me a way to express voice, history, language, and culture through creative form. It was a journey to call myself a writer.”
The cover of Glass Beads is also significant. It features beadwork by Lynxleg’s grandmother, Florence Lynxleg, as drawn by her daughter Denver Willis Lynxleg, a graduate of Emily Carr University.
Lynxleg will be joined by six other women poets from the Southern Interior at the reading.
Michelle Barker of Penticton, Heidi Garnett and Sonnet L’Abbe of Kelowna, Sharon Thesen of Lake Country, Laisha Rosnau of Vernon, and Karen Hofmann of Kamloops will all read from the anthology, Force Field: 77 Women Poets of British Columbia.
“It’s so exciting that we’ve been able to bring together all these acclaimed, award-winning poets on one night,” said Rosnau, who is a co-organizer of the Vertigo Voices series.
“These are women of different ages, from different cultural backgrounds, writing in different styles. The thing that unites us is a love of writing, and of arts, culture, and creative expression. It’s going to be an amazing night.”
The launch of both Lynxleg’s Glass Beads and the Force Field anthology reading is Monday at Gallery Vertigo, #1-3001 31 St., upstairs. Doors open at 7 p.m. and readings begin at 7:30 p.m.
For more information, call (250) 503-2297.