Join us on Thursday, March 18 at 6pm PT when Kazim Ali discusses his book, Northern Light: Power, Land, and the Memory of Water, with Layli Long Soldier on Zoom!
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About Northern Lights
“Places do not belong to us. We belong to them.”
The child of South Asian migrants, Kazim Ali was born in London, lived as a child in the cities and small towns of Manitoba, and made a life in the United States. As a man passing through disparate homes, he has never felt he belonged to a place. And yet, one day, the celebrated poet and essayist finds himself thinking of the boreal forests and lush waterways of Jenpeg, a community thrown up around the building of a hydroelectric dam on the Nelson River, where he once lived for several years as a child. Does the town still exist, he wonders? Is the dam still operational?
When Ali goes searching, however, he finds not news of Jenpeg, but of the local Pimicikamak community. Facing environmental destruction and broken promises from the Canadian government, they have evicted Manitoba’s electric utility from the dam on Cross Lake. In a place where water is an integral part of social and cultural life, the community demands accountability for the harm that the utility has caused.
Troubled, Ali returns north, looking to understand his place in this story and eager to listen. Over the course of a week, he participates in community life, speaks with Elders and community members, and learns about the politics of the dam from Chief Cathy Merrick. He drinks tea with activists, eats corned beef hash with the Chief, and learns about the history of the dam, built on land that was never ceded, and Jenpeg, a town that now exists mostly in his memory. In building relationships with his former neighbors, Ali explores questions of land and power―and in remembering a lost connection to this place, finally finds a home he might belong to.
Praise for Northern Lights
“Ali’s lyrical, hypnotic storytelling takes us on an unlikely journey to a place that only now exists in his childhood memories: a remote industrial community in the boreal forest of northern Canada. I was mesmerized by the voice of a poet who methodically and artistically recounts his once-i- a-lifetime journey to connect with a Cree tribe called the Pimicikamak, the original owners and occupiers of the land and water that mesmerized him as a child. The human landscape Kazim Ali creates in his work, interweaving his own familial and cultural disruption – with those of the Pimicikamak Cree is intriguing and profound.”—Darrel McLeod, author of Mamaskatch
“Ali's lyrics are crafted with a controlled, delicate quality that never stops questioning, never stops teaching, never stops astounding.”—American Poet
“Lyrical, political, humorous, light and deep—Ali strikes out in many directions. . . . The resulting harmonies—and even the discord—are beautiful.”—Justin Torres, author of We the Animals
"Places do not belong to us. We belong to them."
Finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry