INDIGO DREAMS PUBLISHING LTD
GEOFF STEVENS MEMORIAL POETRY PRIZE 2021
Chrys Salt has written eight poetry collections, been translated into several languages, performed across Europe, North America, India and Australia, and her poems have inspired artists, musicians and film-makers to create collaborative pieces.
Amongst many awards she received funding from Creative Scotland to visit Yukon and undertake the research for this collection.
Chrys was awarded an MBE in The Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2014 for Services to Arts.
Cover design by Deirdre Carlisle
138 x 216mm
£10.00 + P&P UK
PUB: March 2020
The Klondike Gold Rush
This collection is a gift to the First Nation peoples of Yukon, many of whom still strive to regain the way of life they lost. Whatever poems I have made of their stories, or fashioned from my own research and experience of being there, in the spirit of just exchange I give them back. Chrys Salt MBE
‘...a brave montage of voices past and present forging links between our world and late nineteenth century North America. With great originality she deploys creation myths and explores the colonial prejudices of governments and greedy, desperate prospectors alongside the exploitation and fate of North America’s First Nation People - a colourful condemnation of human greed, but a testament to the survival instincts of individuals and cultures.’
‘Centring on First Nation folk-hero Skookum Jim, these poems beautifully evoke the landscape, non-human beings and lore of the North Canadian wilderness, capture the frenzy of the gold rush years, the desolation of their aftermath and how landscape and people survive the vagaries of history – always fully acknowledging the poet’s observer status.’
Professor Margaret Elphinstone
Novelist/Emeritus Professor of Strathclyde University
What the lookout saw
(Beaver Mountain 1897)
The placid Yukon winds its arms
round inlets, reed beds, stranded isles,
glacial silt washed down from mountains
to the river's lip,
sheer sand banks undercut by currents,
pocked with swallows' nests.
He's standing where he always stands,
high on the warty outcrop,
look-out for bark canoes,
graceful and marvellously light,
skimming towards his village with their wares –
but not for this, this
silence shredded to a din,
these shrieking clouds,
hurled spume, this smash,
this loud flotilla on the water snake.
How could there be so many in the world?
Swift on his moccasins
he scrambles down.
He shouts in the fields,
he shouts in the fish camp.
He runs like the hare to tell them
that the white man comes again,
lights fires on their land,
takes fish for dog food,
scares the moose
cuts down trees,
tramples the sweet-grass,
makes rivers run backwards,
turns mountains inside out.
'Until our fallen warriors return,’
the wise Chief says,
'we will be moose calves in a land of wolves.’
Song of the wise Chieftain
When they came like the Mosquito
Chieftain told Raven
'Raven, fly away
and store our songs
for no-one else must sing them.'
When Hammer Water spoke
of chattering tongues
on salmon weirs and hunting grounds
Chieftain asked Moon
to light three fires to save them.
When Mountain spoke
of steeps and hollows eaten out
in one short fickle season
Chieftain asked Bear
to store their memories
until times came good to share them.
Land is not my school, my history,
my land was never disembowelled for gain,
nor have I roots grown down so deep in it
that in my bones I know it to be mine.
I am not subject to The Season’s laws,
nor do they govern where I stay or go.
I have no Homeland to be taken back,
no drum to beat that no one listens to,
no shaman to recover what I've lost,
no Frog to heal or teach me to be wise,
no Elders to pass on the lore, learned
from the throat songs of my ancestors.
Language was not stolen from my mouth,
nor did my children grow up separate.
I cannot know how loss makes warriors
or hold a potlatch for your ancient grief,
but fashion stories with a poets tongue,
your stories walking in my skin,
make them anew and give them back,
of rights, of heritage, your living land.
Keish's childhood 1850s
tight in a blanket
he rode on his mother
child of the Wolf Clan
Bear was his brother
ran where the moose ran
bronze brown and laughing
knew what his bones knew
before his arriving
tales of the Yukon
passed on with the telling
smelled the moon rising
before night was waking
saw big winds whisper
before leaves were shaking
whip crack of dawn light
first spring ice breaking
portent of snow slide
in the year's turning
tracked as a wolf might
the caribou's wandering
learned at his making
when words are spoken
there is no unsaying
when earth is broken
there is no returning.
Slide Cemetery, Dyea 2017
Palm Sunday Avalanche 1898
On tidal flats in Dyea now,
are fields and fields of irises.
I think of Flanders and the poppies there,
wonder what strange memorial are these
for young men swallowed by an avalanche,
and now lie in this foreign field
that is forever none of them –
grave markers tilted
under flat leafed pine,
names elbow deep in fern,
stone scoured by rain and time –
men who in one demented summer came
from Kansas, Minnesota, Maine,
kitted with picks and spades,
not guns for victory.
Told they would pluck gold,
from rivers 'quick as raspberries',
were fed a false prospectus
like those other dead.
James Edward Doran 1898
John Morgan, Daniel Molinnan,
George Risser, C P Harris,
Walter Chapper, Thomas Culleden
more and more young men.
Palm Sunday, April 1898,
these and the eloquence of irises.
he found a fleck of it inside a fish
a twinkle in the blood
glint became nuggets
pictured in a book
he mined the flaked opacity of flesh
dug his knife to bedrock skeleton
followed a song the fishbone sang
flew the mind's eye
to lake and glacier
leant pick and spade
on phantom rock
scooped silt from salmon grounds
sluiced to a yellowness of corn
won't speak its name
for fear in naming it were lost
eyes wide and fierce
hand clamped across a scream
held out its pure deep shining
at arm’s length
stock still with knowing
that this, this is,
this is the spinning moment
the last ace poised
above a Royal Flush
when fire kept its tongue
trees dipped in molten sun
water made honey knew
this second held
the future in its breathing out
would open at the bookmark
of his coming back.