#IndianLovePoems, a poetry collection by Tenille K. Campbell, provides evocative, truthful words about love without silencing her Indigenous perspective.
The honesty throughout #IndianLovePoems is fresh and without hesitation. Her words flow like spoken word poetry, storytelling and auto-ethnography. Thus, the reader is able to connect intellectually and emotionally to the life of the author through her words of lived experience. Tenille K Campbell is Dene and Métis. She is an author and photographer from English River First Nations in Northern Saskatchewan.
There are poetry books that need to be read one poem at a time to savour and immerse the reader. However, with this collection, I had to read the book in its entirety and then put it aside for a week to digest what I was just exposed to, envisioning Campbell actually whispering some of these poems into the ears of her lovers or perhaps sharing the intimate poetic stories with her friends over breakfast after a long night. And over breakfast with my own girlfriends after a night on the town, I can still smell the bannock from her poem, #14:
you are the only one
across bingo halls
and powwow grounds
and I smell bannock
when I close my eyes
it leads me to you (45)
When I opened this book of poetry, “Indian taco” were the first words I read (71). Putting this into its context, referring to the female anatomical term, I was intrigued by stories that each poem portrays. An image of white buffalo, hickeys, and moose meat stew can be gathered creatively into one poem (86). My first thought was, “it’s about time someone said these things,” reflecting on the unique phrasings and the direct language used to reveal events that are only replicated in closed writers’ groups where often poet friends are hesitant to share the true nature of their sexuality or experiences, let alone for publishing. Campbell has done this. She has revealed what others are thinking for all to read. She has revealed her dene love with her writing fluctuating between surprising revelations both messy and erotic, and beautiful phrases of intimacy. Yet, she is honest. She is even honest about faking orgasms:
I arched my back
saying things like
all the while
this was worth
at least two
Golden Globes (16)
This poetry collection contains complexity in imagery, metaphor, theme, and use of Cree and Dene languages.This is a poetry book to share with your poetry group and to show that it is acceptable to write what you feel, experience and desire. A book to share with undergraduate students to give them a real life poetic perspective from Indigenous community whether they are students of English, History, Anthropology, Sociology, or First Nations Studies. You don’t need to be Indigenous or a woman to identify with provocative poetry. However, you need to have an open mind to honour the words of erotic desire that are written in this collection by Campbell.
By Tenille K. Campbell
Winnipeg, MB: Signature Editions, 2017,
104 pp., $17.95
E.D. Woodford is a Sioux-Métis writer and co-founder of Wildflower Writing Workshops focusing on auto-ethnographic creative non-fiction and poetry. She is a cultural anthropologist and Indigenous researcher, as well an Instructor in First Nations Studies at the College of the Rockies and a Sessional Instructor in Indigenous Leadership, Faculty of Education, at the University of Prince Edward Island. Her recent research has been published in Transformative Dialogues and the CAPS Journal.