Broken Arrow: Native Men’s Writing, Art, and Culture, and
Broken Arrow Volume 2, Our Footprints: Journeys on the Red Road.
Both issues, 52 pg.
Broken Arrow is a compilation zine put together by a group of men who have led interesting, varied lives and put a lot of work into reflecting on their identities and experiences. The writers collected in Broken Arrow are all or have been residents of an airy, sleekly designed building in Toronto, ON known as Sagatay, which means “new beginning” in Cree.
Sagatay is a transitional shelter for Aboriginal men, operated by the Native Men’s Residence, referred to in the pages of Broken Arrow as Na-Me-Res. The shelter offers some more traditional forms of assistance such as employment counseling, but in the context of an holistic program that focuses on personal growth and helping its clients establish or re-establish a connection with Aboriginal traditions.
The Sagatay Men’s Writing Group is part of this personal development process. The group is facilitated by Emily Pohl-Weary, a Toronto-based writer and former editor of the now-defunct magazine Kiss Machine— and also, to be fair, a pal of mine and the sister of one of my dearest friends. Pohl-Weary has been working weekly with Sagatay residents for over two years to help them tell their stories. These two issues of Broken Arrow, artfully designed and printed, are a fitting tribute to the success of the program and the vision of its participants.
These two issues of the zine compile poetry, short stories, political writing, memoirs, and drawings produced by the group, and cover a lot of ground. Writers tell stories from their childhoods, discuss love, racism, mythology, their struggles with staying sober, and thoughts on growing up Native, among other matters.
You will encounter fun and interesting writing, such as Rainkeeper’s “A Bucket List I’m Proud of”, which begins with the entry, “Become the first homeless man in space.” There are many moving pieces, such as Wes’s poem, “Where I’m From”, which begins with “I am from dysfunction/I am from drunken sex”, but comes around to “I am from time and gentleness, again and again/I am from willingness”.
These works are written by men who are undergoing intense personal transformation through Sagatay’s programs, and it shows in the writing, which can be almost painfully candid and sincere. Writers discuss their struggles, setbacks, and aspirations in an earnest, straightforward way that most of us would be loath to do. It’s risky to put those parts of yourself out in the world, and I commend the Sagatay Men’s Writing Group for the risks they’ve taken and the powerful, funny, unique question of work that has resulted.
- Lily Pepper