"it was the land" Live performance July 19 2021
July 12 2021:
As poet laureate of the Yukon I am honoured to be featured at this online event hosted by Owen Sound's poet laureate Richard-Yves Sitoski on Thursday July 15th. You are cordially invited to join us at https://www.facebook.com/events/994537597963812/
Canada Day 2021: Twenty-seven years ago today I was invested as Canada's first poet laureate. It was a happy day. Canada Day July 1st 2021 is very different. It is the recognition of my country’s 153rd anniversary combined with a day of deep reflection as I and my fellow Canadians struggle to come to terms with the ongoing discovery of unmarked graves on the grounds of residential schools in Canada. In honour of those who never returned home I have written a poem called "it was the land".
it was the land
no one knew the evil men could do
behind closed doors
no one spoke of it
no one said sorry
and in the end
it was the land
the very land itself
it was the land
that carried the secrets
that knew the truth
that yielded a million sorrows
that stopped us like a thunderbolt
in the streets.
god forgive us
the whispers were true
it was the land that spoke for thousands
denied a life. denied a family
denied a mother tongue
and as our grief-filled days
stretched out before us
like a blanket of fear
from the land of the Mi’kmaq to Haida Gwaii
we were numb with disbelief
for it was the land
the very land itself
that spoke to us in the darkness
in the sacred smoke of our ancestors
and in the voices of our children
who whispered on the wind
showing us the way
there will be a time
for coming together
as a nation. as a people. and as a family
to celebrate now
and lift our brothers and sisters
as never before
our tears are never far from the surface
it always gets darker before the light comes back
©pj johnsonYukon June 24 2021
June 28 2021: The sudden advent of the Europeans in North America was a shock to the first peoples who had little or no resistance to diseases like tuberculosis or mind-altering substances like alcohol. When you take the people off the land and put them into a residential school you get disaster. The trauma is generational and it affects my family. This poem is an adaptation of an old genocidal nursery rhyme still used in some classrooms as a song to teach children how to count. *From my book "it's howlin' time!" https://amzn.to/2U5fDMm #Yukon #Canada
June 14 2021: I was recently honoured to be featured on the 100th episode of the New York Parrot Literary Corner along with host Dustin Pickering.
From the book "it's howlin' time!" amzn.to/3fW64HS
Remembering Former Yukon Commissioner Doug Bell
I was sad to learn of the recent passing of my good friend former Yukon Commissioner Doug Bell. In 1985 he invited me to sit at his desk and sign a copy of my first little book “I Sing Yukon” and sent it to Her Royal Highness the Princess Anne. Commissioner Bell later received a message from the palace thanking ‘Mr P. Johnson’ for the book. Doug and I had a good laugh. No one gets my name right.
R.I.P. my friend and thank you for your service. #yukon
April 21 2021: Land of the Wolf and Crow
Inspired by well-known and greatly respected Yukon elder Elijah Smith’s long struggle to bring about a Yukon native land claim settlement, I wrote this poem in 1986. I called it “reclaiming” because you cannot claim something that is already yours. You can only reclaim it. The final land claims agreement was signed seven years later in 1993. *Published in Dan Sha Magazine in 1988.
In the Yukon there are two first nations clans – the Wolf Clan and the Crow Clan so the Yukon is sometimes called Land of the Wolf and Crow. Raven (crow) is my spirit guide and I am also known as the Yukon Raven Lady.
Rhymes of the Raven Lady was basically a re-print of my first book "I Sing Yukon" published in 1984. The cover, painted prior to my investiture by William Sinclair hence no official insignia on my Stetson, portrays Wolf & Crow (raven) representing the two Yukon First Nations clans. I'm also known as the Yukon Raven Lady. #yukon #worldpoetrymonth #poetrycommunity
IN HONOUR OF NATIONAL POETRY MONTH
A rare photograph of my investiture in Whitehorse on Canada Day July 1st 1994 when I became the first Canadian poet laureate - standing behind former Yukon Commissioner John Kenneth McKinnon as he reads the official proclamation naming me Poet Laureate of the Yukon. Audrey McLaughlin, former leader of the NDP (seated) also presented me with my personal symbol of office the carved Talking Stick.
Leaving the stage carrying the Talking Stick
I MAY BE THE DAUGHTER OF A YUKON TRAPPER BUT....
Queen Elizabeth set a great example when she quit wearing fur. I am the daughter of a Yukon trapper but I never trapped a day in my life. In today's world no animal should ever have to suffer & die just so someone can walk down a catwalk wearing its pelt.
March 28 2021
When ur dog wants to share his blankie.
He is my comfort. - Sometimes all you really need is a blankie.
FREEDOM OF SPEECH? CENSORSHIP? FACEBOOK?
Anyone wishing to sign the petition opposing the ban on this website please click here ~~>
March 23 2021 Canadian Poets Laureate speak out for the protection of old-growth forests.
I am honoured to be a part of this. There is a better way.
March 21 2021:
In honour of World Poetry Day and the International Day for the Elimination of Racism ~ "dwight" a poem by pj johnson Poet Laureate of the Yukon. *Click the pic to hear the poem.
March 13 2021:
*The portrait behind Doc & I was painted by Yukon artist William Sinclair prior to my investiture as Poet Laureate of the Yukon on July 1st 1994 - hence my Stetson bears no official insignia pin. *Today as I celebrate another trip around the sun I ask friends to make a donation to the petition to protect the Northern sled dogs. Thank You. ~~> https://bit.ly/3vie4IW <~~
An interview on CIUT FM featuring pj johnson Poet Laureate of the Yukon.
January 1 2021
Songwriters are some of the most accomplished poets and Canada has some of the finest.
Poetry requires a precision of the written word
while music is a universal expression of spirit.
When put together you get magic.
Let us celebrate the writers of song who bring us light.
the writers of song
today i celebrate the artists
who bring us new hope
and help us to keep hope alive
when we need it the most
the crafters of words and music
that move us to celebrate liberate and venerate
who speak for us when we have no words
and give us words to speak when we need them
who show us how to grieve and share our hearts
and when to speak and when to be silent
how to laugh and when to cry
when to sing and how to fly
these are the makers of the songs that paint our lives
and gift us with sweet memories
that fill our hearts when they are empty
and show us how to fall in love
these are the maestros
the weavers of story the healers of hearts
some of the finest poets who ever dared
to pick up a pen
they are the writers of song
and i salute them
please join me
©pj johnson Poet Laureate of the Yukon
December 31 2020