[Cara-Lyn] Morgan’s first book delves deeply into family history and features a series of loving elegies to those who helped to shape the young woman’s character, in particular her Métis uncle Patrick and her Trinidadian grandmother. Ceremonies of grieving endow their lives with enduring meaning, and the poet attempts to preserve their memory by recovering the languages they spoke. “Tell me the stories,” says the young girl in an early poem. “I need to know who I come from.” Perhaps because they are too painful, the father answers, “There are no stories,” but the child knows there must be.

Throughout the book Morgan digs, asks questions, calls up memories, many of them painful but essential to the task of establishing an identity. In a world where neither acceptance nor contentment comes easily, the poet finds meaning in family. She writes of a father who “abandoned // the taste of fried doubles bujoul dasheeen / turmeric green iguana” for life in Saskatchewan; a mother who “Enticed / with plates of homemade pasta, green pesto /… peanut butter on salted crackers”; an uncle who “taught me to braise / a brisket of freshly killed moose”; aunts at a funeral who “smoke Patrick’s / stash in the upstairs bathroom”; a family full of life and sorrow and appetite. Peppered with words from Cree, French and Caribbean English dialect, What Became My Grieving Ceremony serves up a dish rich in memory and hope.

— Colin Morton, League of Canadian Poets


Another book to tackle shaping forces is What Became My Grieving Ceremony by Trinidadian-Metis-Saskatchewan poet Cara-Lyn Morgan. This beautiful debut collection seeks and establishes roots by drawing on familiar prairie tropes of felt connection to the land while reckoning with family particulars of mixed heritage. In "Reading this list of names, I find myself," she writes, "I call to my body the whorl/ of their old fingerprints, that they may/ enter me like thunder . . . // In my most quiet calling/ I speak their grandmother names/ the left-behind names/ the only names that remain// . . . remember to me/ my spirit name/ let me not be forgotten."

What makes this "complicated history" (as Morgan titles one of the sections) unique is its blend of the bodily and the abstract — naming the edges of what we (can) know and how we know it and ourselves, those slender fulcrums where specific ways we are placed in our lives meet ineffable realities. As the poem "These things I know" lists, "On the prairie you can smell the rain coming/ for hours before it falls . . . The pull of my mother's hands/ in my hair . . . // . . . That winter/ hush."

— Mariianne Mays