I am profoundly grateful to the Alberta Literary Community, which I have counted myself a member of for roughly a dozen years. In that time, I have written 7 books and have witnessed my own growth as a writer and poet. Being a writer is a hard job. Sometimes it feels like being a poet is even harder. We write and create because there is something inside of us that compels us. I engage with the world through the written word. In 2021, I published a poetry collection titled, Tell The Birds Your Body Is Not A Gun with local Alberta Publisher, Frontenac House. The book was written as a way to remove grief from my body. It was that simple and that complicated. This past weekend, the Alberta literary community awarded me the highest honour a poetry book can achieve in this province - The Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry. I keep coming back to the word Grateful. I am so grateful. Because of the content, I do not know how to celebrate this book. Yet, I do celebrate my family making it. I celebrate coming out the other side of severe mental health struggles, while also recognizing our journey is cyclical. The jury that awarded me this honour said many generous things and I want to share that, because despite it all, I am proud of this difficult little book and I want to thank them for reading it so carefully.
By melding compact poetry, sharp prose poems and rich poetic essays, Rayanne Haines takes readers on a journey through present and past trauma, with a clarity and honesty that is deeply moving. Her words are raw and real, crushing and hopeful. Haines offers us not only a beautifully crafted exploration of the many layers of grief and healing, but also a powerful testament of resilience and strength. Tell the birds your body is not a gun is a generous sharing of how one can hold pain gently, with the care it deserves.
Equally elegant as it is emotional, Tell the birds your body is not a gun houses testimonial poems written from a place of grief. Haines crafts memories that linger between the concrete and abstract, while keeping a consistent tone throughout her collection. The stories and thoughts depicted in this collection reflect their form—minimal, unbridled, honest and with ample whitespace left for reader’s contemplation. Tell the Birds reads like a fluid journal, adhered by emotion, whit and perseverance in times of adversity.
Tell the birds your body is not a gun is an incredible exploration in form and an invitation to witness a very specific time in the author’s life. These poems and essays show the reader what collective familial healing can look like, the fierceness of a mother’s love, and the difficult unknownness of mental health struggles.