BAKER, Marie Annharte

Author Tags: Aboriginal Authors, Alcohol, Poetry, Women

Born in 1942, Marie Annharte Baker is Anishinabe from the Little Saskatchewan First Nations. She was raised as a neglected child in Winnipeg, a city she abhors for its racism. Her alcoholic mother disappeared when she was nine. After studying at universities in Brandon, Vancouver and Minneapolis (centre for the American Indian Movement), she split from an abusive husband and turned to social work and activism.

In one of 17 'five feminist minutes' commissioned by the National Film Board to mark the 15th anniversary of its Studio D, Baker examined racial and sexual abuse of Aboriginal women. After her first collection of poetry, Being on the Moon (1990), reflected the voices and concerns of urban Aboriginal women, she was invited onto CBC's Morningside and appeared at the 8th Festival of the Written in Arts at Sechelt.

Baker is one of the Aboriginal writers protested the successful Aboriginal stories of Alberta-born W.P. Kinsella in the late 1980s. "It's like animals, you know," she told the Globe & Mail, "pissing on each other's territory. He pissed on ours, so I'm pissing on his... Nobody's trying to tell anyone what they can write about. The issue is really about how cultural appropriation is used to obscure racism in the literary and publishing world."

Co-founder of the Regina Aboriginal Writers Group, Marie Annharte Baker lived on the West Coast before returning to Winnipeg. Her other books are Coyote Columbus Café (1994), Blueberry Canoe (2001) and Exercises in Lip Pointing (2003).

Marie Annharte Baker was named the inaugural winner of the Blue Metropolis First People's Literary Prize in 2015 for her 2012 poetry collection, Indigena Awry. She received the $5000 prize in Montreal where she was interviewed by Taiaiake Alfred as part of the Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival.


Being on the Moon (Winlaw: Polestar, 1990)

Coyote Columbus Cafe (Winnepeg: Moonprint, 1994)

Blueberry Canoe (New Star, 2001)

Exercises in Lip Pointing (New Star, 2003)

Indigena Awry (New Star 2012)

[BCBW 2015]

Indigena Awry
Publisher's Promo (2013)

NDN word warrior Marie Annharte Baker's fourth book of poems, Indigena Awry, is her largest and wildest yet. It collects a decade's worth of verse — fifty–nine poems.

Set noticeably in Winnipeg and Vancouver, but in many other places on either side of the Medicine Line as well, the poems are a laser–eyed meander through contested streets filled with racism, classism, and sexism. Shot through with sex and violence and struggle and sadness and trauma, her work is always set to detect and confront the delusions of colonialism and its discontents.

These poems are informed by a sceptical spirituality. They call for justice for NDNs through the Permanent Resistance that goes around in cities. This is bruising and exacting stuff, but Annharte is also one of poetry's best jokers.

In Indigena Awry, you can find fictitious girl gangs coexisting with real boy ones. NDN grannies may be found flirting salaciously in some internet chat room. One might use duct tape to prevent a war. You might be worried that hand–signalling for a Timbit on an airplane flight will be considered a terrorist act.

Annharte may be seam–walking a singular path but she is not without allies. In the United States, they could include Leslie Marmon Silko and Chrystos. In Canada, Beth Brant and Gerry Gilbert. The jazz inflections of Beat writing are often apparent in her work. She swings from a poetic madness into a mad poetics. Way under it all, acting as a deep sort of platform, could be considered the Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong'o's project of decolonizing one's mind. Both sketch out an argument that we will not see, feel, or respond correctly in or to our own lives without doing this, because otherwise we will be living within a philosophical myopia generated by a bad fiction.

While Indigena Awry is written for NDN persons, it is highly recommended for truth–seekers of every nature and anarchs of word and spirit. In an Annharte poem you might lose your way only to find what's important.
About Annharte

Annharte, AKA Marie Baker, is Anishinabe (Little Saskatchewan First Nation, Manitoba). She has moved her urban campground back to her birthplace, otherwise known as Winnipeg. The author of three previous poetry books, Being On the Moon (1990), Columbus Coyote Cafe (1995) and Exercises In Lip Pointing (2003), she also has a book of essays, AKA, out in 2012 from Capilano University Editions.