Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Dallas Hunt, the author of the upcoming poetry collection CREELAND, often hammers his late night thoughts into the Notes app of his iPhone from his Vancouver bedroom.
“It’s a whole millennial thing where it’s mostly writing on my phone,” he told Windspeaker.com.
“I’ll just be laying in bed unable to sleep that particular night,” Hunt said, “and I’ll start writing. Sometimes what I write I’m not very happy with and I’ll wake up the next morning and be like ‘what the hell was that?’, but sometimes I’ll wake up and realize that’s a good start to something.”
When he’s writing during the daylight hours, Hunt finds himself inspired by day-to-day events.
“If I saw something that engendered particular feelings, like a news article I found, I would just begin writing a poem that I would stick with until it was at a place I liked,” he said.
A member of the Wapsewsipi (Swan River First Nation) in Treaty 8 territory in northern Alberta, Hunt grew up moving between Kinuso and Lesser Slave Lake, Alta.
Hunt did his undergraduate at Edmonton’s University of Alberta in English Honours, spent time in Hamilton, Ont. while studying his Masters’ degree in Critical Theory and Cultural Studies, and also held a teaching position at University of Manitoba in the Native Studies Department.
Currently, Hunt works at the University of British Columbia as an assistant professor in English and Literature Studies, the same department in which he studied his PhD.
Wanting to expand his horizons past academic writing, Hunt decided to try his hand at poetry. Though he isn’t sure exactly when he wrote the first poem, he estimates CREELAND is the culmination of about five years of work.
“The poems just started to accumulate and I realized one day I had enough for a collection. This is very thrilling stuff. That’s how CREELAND came to be,” he said. “In a way, I think I’ll write the next collection in a way that’ll be more quick in the composition and I think it might be more thematic. This one is just sort of all the poems I’ve written over the years under the banner of CREELAND.”
The collection is described as “concerned with notions of home and the quotidian attachments we feel to those notions, even across great distances.”
“There’s a lot of Cree language in there; there’s a lot about The Prairies,” Hunt said.
Though Hunt had the majority of the poetry completed, two final pieces of his opening collection eluded him — the cover art and title of the work.
But he found both when a friend gifted him a toque from the Cree Land Mini Mart, a gas station and convenience store based in downtown Regina. It struck Hunt immediately as both the title and the cover art for his collection.
“I had most of the manuscript. I was just struggling with the title. I couldn’t figure out what to call it. What was the unifying theme to the text? I just saw the toque and I was like, ‘yeah, that’s it. I liked the word CREELAND in all caps because it’s an assertion to territory — Cree Land — but there’s also a playfulness there, as it sounds like an amusement park. As soon as I figured out the title, I also figured out the cover.”
While CREELAND is his debut poetry collection, Hunt is the published author of a 2018 children’s book. Awâsis and the World-famous Bannock was a finalist for a trio of awards while being shortlisted for two others.
Hunt says one of his biggest challenges is simply making sure he’s got enough time to commit to both his academic and creative writing careers.
“It’s just trying to fit it in when I can, but I’m finding now that I quite enjoy that work so I’m trying to really work on that much more and increase my output in creative writing. In a large part it’s about finding that balance between work and life.”
CREELAND is set to be in April by Nightwood Editions and can be ordered through distributor Harbour Publishing and available in Independent bookstores.
Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.