Author Tags: Aboriginal Authors
Skyros Bruce, later known as Mahara Allbrett, is from the Sleil Waututh Nation in British Columbia.
Skyros Bruce’s little-known Kalala Poems (1972) is the first book of poetry written by a B.C.-born Aboriginal woman. It was published in a limited edition of 250 copies when she was twenty. Bruce’s collection of 37 poems of alienation, loneliness and suicidal thoughts were introduced by her publisher Lionel Kearns, an SFU English professor and poet who noted on the book jacket that her Aboriginal name in the Squamish band was Kalala, meaning butterfly. “She is talented and beautiful,” he wrote, “but she has come this far through circumstances that can only be described as grim.”
Raised in North Vancouver as a niece of Chief Dan George, Skyros Bruce was also known as Mary Bruce. Her brother was Andy Bruce, the central figure in a hostage-taking incident at the B.C. Penitentiary that resulted in a play called Walls, written by Christian Bruyère, and a 1984 movie of the same name, scripted by Bruyère and directed by Tom Shandel.
Some of the poetry in Kalala Poems previously appeared in literary publications such as Blackfish, The Tamarack Review, White Pelican, West Coast Review and the Capilano Review. In a poem called For Richard, about a boyfriend, she wrote:
when they took you from me / with their beautiful blue serge suits we cried / they looked on / with willowy / all-wise / eyes / as you pulled the stockings / over your hands / with your closed eyes / we saw a gentle man, green / under the limber stalks / and i saw your life-force / moving / over / my womb / all they ever saw was a convict
According to Lionel Kearns, Skyros Bruce travelled to India and afterwards spent time in several ashrams in British Columbia. Now known as Mahara Allbrett, she returned to North Vancouver where she works as a family counsellor and consultant among First Nations people.
Bruce, Skyros. Kalala Poems (Vancouver: Daylight Press, 1972).
Voices of Color: First-Person Accounts of Ethnic Minority Therapists (National Native Association of Treatment Directors 1989), edited by Mudita Rastogi, Elizabeth Wieling
Gatherings and Native Poetry in Canada: A Contemporary Anthology.
[Alan Twigg BCBW 2016]