Article Category Archives: Spoken Word

Ten Lessons I Learned from the Salish Sea

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1. greet the water
plunge your hands under the surface, fingers dancing in the tide
remember it like an old friend
like a beginning
like a home
speak your name to this place
listen for its response
say thank you

2. say thank you again

3. know that the place is here, and the time is now
if the midnight algae is glowing in the waves
dive in, freedom first
grab your friends, grab each other’s hands
there are galaxies underwater
do not hesitate
there will never be a moment like this again
but there will be many moments
eat them up

4. eat everything
forget that
eat what you can identify
and if you don’t know what it is
don’t eat it
this place can heal you
so learn the plants, learn the medicines, learn the liquorice fern rhizome
and learn that rhizomes are underground horizontal stems
seek a mentor, find a book, remember

5. this place will hold you, do not hold back
do not hide from the big emotions
if you are afraid you will be swept away in their currents
look for bull kelp
hold on tight
you may sway, you might rise and fall
but you will stay anchored
listen to the tiny emotions
lay down next to them in the grass
watch them bloom
be tender, take care
allow yourself to be held

6. sleep outside
drink the milky way before bed
count the stars to fall asleep
wake up early with the birds
sip the cold air
watch your breath meet the fog
wash your face with the morning dew

7. be quiet

8. accept change
accept that you will be changed, will cause change
there will be many portals to go through
dynamic interfaces of land and sea, hopes and fears, dances and stillness
every step ripples outwards
everything you touch reacts
accept that you will find pieces of yourself nestled between stone and sea glass
rivers will erode new pathways inside you
flow, all things change

9. live
let your spirit soar with ravens in the hemlock treetops
jump with orcas in the seafoam
find community, find your people, find yourself
live knowing you were not the first here
nor will you be the last
beings have used this land, loved this land
since time immemorial
each layer of history a harmony of the song this place sings forever
sing along
live like you are going to stay

10. stay

Photo showing a women sitting on a tree trunk in dense forest.

Still frame from “Ten Lessons” by Makaila Wenezenki

Watch Makaila’s full video of “Ten Lessons” on YouTube or listen to the audio below.


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we saw the future before we lived it,
we learned new definitions of the word “apocalypse”
we screamed chants that rang out like machine gun fire
when we pulled the trigger of our lips,
gun cocked and ready,
like my tongue; cocked and ready.
fire, aim, steady —
the message can no longer get lost in translation,
the message is known and spans every nation,
“hey hey, hey ho, climate change has got to go.”

my father was apprehensive about raising a family
he didn’t want to have to take my hand as we looked out upon a dying world and say:
“you know? all of this will be yours some day.”
my mother knew she wanted to have a family,
she’d show me our broken world and then on bended knee would say:
“i know it’s not going to be easy my love, but look at what you see,
you can change this darling, you are the key.”

because the future is a storage locker our grandparents didn’t know how to unpack,
emissions, fumes and our impending doom.
the future is a skipping record that can only play one track,
extinction, humanity and our incongruity.
the future is empty words and the promises that were made but not kept,
ghosts that haunt the halls of the burning house we stopped calling home,
the future is the secrets that are again and again swept,
underneath the carpet and yet they hang in the air with the every growing carbon.

a million footfalls echo as one,
a million heartbeats sound at once,
as through our bodies resound the pounding of war drums,
a united voice thunders:
“hey hey, hey ho, climate change has got to go,
hey hey, hey ho, climate change has got to go,
hey hey, hey ho, climate change has got to go.”

we cannot be stopped,
for we are unstoppable,
our movement is momentous,
our movement is colossal,
we are the ocean that brings the tides of change,
we are the young who bring new voices to the table again,
we are the message and the mouthpiece our voice knows no range,
we are the forests will herald fresh growth,
we are the future,
not the one that you know.

Listen to Katia Bannister performing “Future” at the Global Climate Strike on September 20, 2019:


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Shauntay’s poem “Grandmother” is published in The Great Black North: Contemporary African Canadian Poetry (Frontenac House, 2012) and most recently featured as a spoken word recording on her 2014 album release Say Sumthin. Co-produced by Johann Deterville, Say Sumthin has been heralded as “a bona fide listening experience, a remarkable journey” (The Chronicle Herald).



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Walls is a CinePoetry collaboration between Ardath Whynacht and director Walter Forsyth. Since its premiere in April 2013, Walls has shown at many film and poetry festivals, including the Atlantic Film Festival (Halifax), Zebra (Berlin) and Visible Verse (Vancouver). Walls was supported by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Atlantic Filmmakers Cooperative.

Understorey Magazine is proud to present the online premiere of Walls.