Michelle Good is a writer and lawyer living in Kamloops, British Columbia
Michelle Good’s poem, “Defying Gravity,” was featured in issue 30 of The Puritan. Here she discusses her writing process and inspiration.
Kamloops, where I live and write, sits at the confluence of the North and South Thompson Rivers. I have been fortunate to live in a house that offers a spectacular quality of light and an even more spectacular view of the river, wending its sensuous way south. Rivers have always had a somewhat hypnotic effect on me—they are like ever-changing stories that begin with the dawn of time. My son and I, both lovers of wild places and outdoor experiences, witnessed many magnificent rivers in our many travels together.
On one of those beautiful desert days with the sun high in the sky, the hills still green before the heat of summer would render them brown and stone-like, the lovely Joni Mitchell was singing: “I wish I had a river … I could sail away on,” and I replied, “O Joni, I wish I were a river.”
The elemental nature of water and how it is at the heart of gestation and birth was something I tried to capture along with the very personal memories of wonderful times spent with my now deceased son. Those were halcyon days and I hoped not only to capture the grief of loss, but also the careless fun and wonder of the times we shared along the shores of such tremendous rivers as the Kispiox, the Kitimat, the Fraser, the Columbia, the Moberly, and the Peace. The poem started with the simple notion of how redemptive it would be to have the power to transform into such an elemental force, raging and racing, carving the landscape or simply rolling toward the horizon, with no need to understand the unfathomable. I would have just one purpose: to keep moving, and carrying life. I hoped to create images that would engage the senses and take the reader riverside for a moment where we can easily find the ancient and a touchstone for meaning in the stones of riverbeds.
The title started simply as “River,” and while I laboured over the edits that would eventually deliver this poem, the title arrived. I didn’t think it up; it just arrived quite perfectly. The poem looks to let the poet defy the gravity of loss, and the river offers an absence of gravity if the poet allows her to carry them along.
The poem is part eulogy, mostly love, and certainly longing for a Boy and the times we laughed and lazed and loved rivers together.
Michelle Good is of the Battle River Cree and a member of the Red Pheasant Cree Nation. A lawyer, and most recently, a graduate of UBC’s Master of Fine Arts program, she is currently putting the finishing touches on her novel that explores the diverse experiences of Residential School survivors left to their own devices when the law could no longer hold them in the schools. Her poems have previously been published in Gatherings—Volume VII: Standing Ground Strength and Solidarity Amidst Dissolving Boundaries and West 49th.