With breathtaking virtuosity, Garry Thomas Morse sets out to recover the appropriated, stolen and scattered world of his ancestral people from Alert Bay to Quadra Island to Vancouver, retracing Captain Vancouver’s original sailing route. These poems draw upon both written history and oral tradition to reflect all of the respective stories of the community, which vocally weave in and out of the dialogics of the text.
A dramatic symphony of many voices, Discovery Passages uncovers the political, commercial, intellectual and cultural subtexts of the Native language ban, the potlatch ban and the confiscation and sale of Aboriginal artifacts to museums by Indian agents, and how these actions affected the lives of both Native and non-Native inhabitants of the region. This displacement of language and artifacts reverberated as a profound cultural disjuncture on a personal level for the author’s people, the Kwakwaka’wakw, as their family and tribal possessions became at once both museum artifacts and a continuation of the tradition of memory through another language. Morse’s continuous poetic dialogue of “discovery” and “recovery” reaches as far as the Lenape, the original Native inhabitants of Mannahatta in what is now known as New York, and on across the Atlantic in pursuit of the European roots of the “Voyages of Discovery” in the works of Sappho, Socrates, Virgil and Frazer’s The Golden Bough, only to reappear on the American continent to find their psychotic apotheosis in the poetry of Duncan Campbell Scott.
With tales of Chiefs Billy Assu, Harry Assu and James Sewid; the family story “The Young Healer”; and transformed passages from Whitman, Pound, Williams and Bowering, Discovery Passages links Kwakwaka’wakw traditions of the past with contemporary poetic tradition in B.C. that encompasses the entire scope of relations between oral and vocal tradition, ancient ritual, historical contextuality and our continuing rites.