The finalists for the sixth annual Indigenous Voices Awards (IVAs) have been announced, and Nightwood Editions would like to congratulate two authors who have been recognized in the Published Poetry in English category: Emily Riddle for The Big Melt and Délani Valin for Shapeshifters. The IVAs are a literary contest that aims to honour the sovereignty of Indigenous creative voices, and support and nurture the work of Indigenous writers in lands claimed by Canada.
The Big Melt is the debut poetry collection by Emily Riddle. Rooted in Nêhiyaw thought and urban millennial life events, it examines what it means to repair kinship, contend with fraught history, go home and contemplate prairie ndn utopia in the era of late capitalism and climate change. Part memoir, part research project, this collection draws on Riddle’s experience working in Indigenous governance and her affection for confessional poetry in crafting feminist works that are firmly rooted in place.
Emily Riddle is Nêhiyaw and a member of the Alexander First Nation (Kipohtakaw). A writer, editor, policy analyst, language learner and visual artist, she lives in Amiskwaciwâskahikan (Edmonton). She is the senior advisor of Indigenous relations at the Edmonton Public Library. Her writing has been published in The Globe and Mail, Teen Vogue, The Malahat Review and Room Magazine, among others. In 2021 she was awarded the Edmonton Artists’ Trust Award, and in 2023, The Big Melt was longlisted for the League of Canadian Poets’ Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. Emily Riddle is a semidedicated Oilers fan and a dedicated Treaty Six descendant who believes deeply in the brilliance of the Prairies and their people.
Shapeshifters is a collection of poetry by Délani Valin that explores the cost of finding the perfect mask. Through a lens of urban Métis experience and neurodivergence, Valin takes on a series of personas as an act of empathy as resistance. Some personas are capitalist mascots like the Starbucks siren, Barbie and the Michelin Man, who confide the hopes and frustrations that lay hidden behind their relentless public enthusiasm. Others include psychiatric diagnoses like hypochondria, autism and depression, and unlikely archetypes such as a woman who becomes a land mass by ending the quest to shrink herself. In more confessional poems, the pressure to find relief from otherness often leads to magical thinking: portals, flight, telepathy and incantations all become metaphors for survival. Shapeshifters maps ways in which an individual can attempt to fit into a world that is inhospitable to them, and makes a case to shift the shape of that world.
Délani Valin is Métis with Nehiyaw, Saulteaux, French-Canadian and Czech ancestry. She studies for her master’s in professional communications at Royal Roads University, and has a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing from Vancouver Island University. Her poetry has been awarded The Malahat Review’s Long Poem Prize and subTerrain’s Lush Triumphant Award, and she has been shortlisted for the League of Canadian Poets’ Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. She is on the editorial board of Room and The Malahat Review, and lives on traditional and unceded Snuneymuxw territory (Nanaimo, BC).
The Indigenous Voices Awards are increasingly significant to the literary landscape. They started in 2017, with the first prizes distributed in 2018. The IVAs have championed the work of over 100 Indigenous writers, including Brian Thomas Isaac, Billy-Ray Belcourt, Tanya Tagaq, Jesse Thistle, Émilie Monnet and jaye simpson. This year, the jury consisted of: Billy-Ray Belcourt, Lisa Bird-Wilson, Warren Cariou, David Chariandy, Otoniya Juliane Okot Bitek, Madeleine Reddon, June Scudeler, Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, Matthew Tétreault, Richard Van Camp, Katherena Vermette, and Eldon Yellowhorn. The winners will be announced on June 21, 2023.