Spawn by Marie-Andree Gill (translated by Kristen Renee Miller)


SPAWN is a braided collection of brief, untitled poems, a coming-of-age lyric set in the Mashteuiatsh Reserve on the shores of Lake Piekuakami (Saint-Jean) in Quebec.

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Undeniably political, Marie-Andrée Gill’s poems ask how one can reclaim a narrative that has been confiscated and distorted by colonizers. The poet’s young avatar reaches new levels on Nintendo, stays up too late online, wakes to her period on class photo day, and carves her lovers’ names into every surface imaginable. Encompassing twenty-first-century imperialism, coercive assimilation, and nineties-kid culture, SPAWN is threaded with the speaker’s desires, her searching: for fresh water to “takes the edge off,” for a “habitable word,” for sex. For her true north—her voice and her identity. Like the life cycle of the ouananiche that frames this collection, the speaker’s journey is cyclical; immersed in teenage moments of confusion and life on the reserve, she retraces her scars to let in what light she can, and perhaps in the end discover what to make of herself.

“In any translation there are three texts: the original, the translation, and the text that exists in the gulf between them. What makes Kristen Renee Miller’s translations of Marie-Andrée Gill so remarkable is the way that third ghost-text seems at times to step into our field of vision. Gill writes: ‘we bathe in the malaise / of hot asphalt / waiting for a habitable word,’ and we feel the tension of translation, of using language at all, our doomed human technology. It’s the hardest thing to capture that frustration in language, much less in translated language, and it’s a little miraculous how it’s rendered throughout Gill’s haunting lyric flares. ‘I’m just trying to resemble / this ancient water of which I am the child,’ she writes, and then there it is in the room with us—the weight of the centuries, the weight of the trying. SPAWN is unforgettable poetry of the highest order.”—Kaveh Akbar

“Marie-Andrée Gill undertakes in SPAWN a poetry of intimacy and estrangement in technicolor: evoking nostalgia for nature as well as Nintendo, her haunting juxtapositions exist in life cycles of commercial possibilities and ecological impossibilities, of postcolonial globalization and indigenous dislocation. Rendered into crystalline English by poet Kristen Renee Miller, SPAWN is an unforgettable work of lyricism and cosmic intelligence.”—Katrine Øgaard Jensen

“In these knotty, intense lyrics, Marie-Andrée Gill’s SPAWN exposes the beauty and cruelty of our fallen, and falling, world. These poems are like small treasures clutched in buried tree roots, preserving ‘the chalky veins’ of ancestral memory pulsing just below our modern hustle. Kristen Renee Miller’s luminous translation gives us a poet who insists on unwinding layers of language—Indigenous and settler, pop-cultural, philosophical, and spiritual—in search of elemental connection: ‘up close, our animal skin / looks like any other.'”—Kiki Petrosino

“Marie-Andrée Gill’s SPAWN is an epic journey that follows the ouananiche in their steadfast ability to hold: rigid, shimmering, hardened to the frigid waters of winter, in all of its capacities of and for whiteness. Gill’s narrator weaves through their home in Mashteuiatsh and nooks in digital worlds, broken worlds, beautiful worlds, all the while bleeding temporalities into a gallant orality where the northern lights hum with the magnetic fields of Nintendo. Here, the land makes love with the narrator and itself to teach honestly what it means to be held, caressed, and cared for in the most intimate of fashions so that the poems can summon into being a spawn of its own wonder-working dreams: ‘a woman risen up from all these winter worlds, heaped with ice [and] ready to start again.'”—Joshua Whitehead

Spawn by Marie-Andree Gill (translated by Kristen Renee Miller)
Epilogue BCB