Poetry is for rebels…

An archive of some of our favourite poems about rebels…

Dionne Brand

The day you left the air broke
into splinters,
all night before the tree outside
held its breath,
the windows ached,
the newspapers whimpered unread,
old lovers, unknowing, staggered
in doorways,
We should gather rivers for you,
the Layou, the Niger, the St. Lawrence
should weep now,
we should call storms,
our grief will dry lakes,
this city should spring hibiscus
in late winter when your name
in said, full subways and streetcars
should sprout wings and fly
urgently to your side,
You knew the world,
its weather scraping our skins,
we hear you in our sleep, wild
as verses of autumn maple

We should carry you
to that country you dreamed
for us, where your liquid voice
is astonishing
If we sing here like crickets,
as perfectly, if we fill all rooms
with silence, you would return then,
or tell us how it is where you are,
how we could dilute bitter things
and acrid cities; how
to strain sorrow through our hands,
then mount demonstrations against
your death,
will you send word
in letters, in goldenrod leaflets
in spiders’ threads or how we used to
at night – with buckets of glue –
on light posts,
till then Marlene,
we will fix petals of you to our eyes


Gregory Scofield

The Sentence

(July 31, 1885)

Louis Riel’s death-row poems to be auctioned at Toronto sale.

A Toronto antiquarian is set to auction a “never before seen” set of poems
handwritten by the famed Metis rebel leader Louis Riel and given to one of the Mounties who guarded him in at a Regina jail ahead of his 1885 hanging for treason.

  • Headline and excerpt from the Vancouver Sun
    November 14, 2008

Then my head was worth more than poetry.
A mere telegram, truth or lies,
was gold outright.
They could even have sold dog shit
on the heel of my shoe, more so
to the Easterners
who wanted their smell of victory.

But I stood with my eyes ahead,
thinking of the white primrose,
the orange lilies
when their faces come to life
and the prairie as a sonnet
in all its gesticulations.


Marilyn Dumont

A Letter to Sir John A. Macdonald

Dear John: I’m still here and halfbreed,
after all these years
you’re dead, funny thing,
that railway you wanted so badly,
there was talk a year ago
of shutting it down
and part of it was shut down,
the dayliner at least,
‘from sea to shining sea,’
and you know, John,
after all that shuffling us around to suit the settlers,
we’re still here and Metis.

We’re still here
after Meech Lake and
one no-good-for-nothin-Indian
holdin-up-the-train,
stalling the ‘Cabin syllables /Nouns of settlement,
/…steel syntax [ and ] /The long sentence of its exploration’
and John, that goddamned railroad never made this a great nation,
cause the railway shut down
and this country is still quarreling over unity,
and Riel is dead
but he just keeps coming back
in all the Bill Wilsons yet to speak out of turn or favour
because you know as well as I
that we were railroaded
by some steel tracks that didn’t last
and some settlers who wouldn’t settle
and it’s funny we’re still here and callin ourselves halfbreed.