“What happens when decolonial love becomes a story you tell yourself after he falls asleep?” This powerful line becomes one of the main threads of Billy-Ray Belcourt’s first collection of poetry, This Wound is a World, in which his queer and Indigenous identity intersect in complicated ways throughout each poem. Part manifesto and part memoir, this book explores Belcourt’s issues with sex and love as he attempts to work through the complex space an Indigenous body takes up in Canada.
From the Driftpile Cree Nation, Belcourt is currently a PhD student at the University of Alberta and a 2016 Rhodes Scholar. Though his focus has been on his academic work and writing, Belcourt has published his poetry widely in such prestigious literary magazines as The New Quarterly, Red Rising Magazine, and The Malahat Review. Tracey Lindberg, author of Birdie, named him an “Indigenous writer to watch,” and his highly anticipated first collection does not disappoint.
Though many of these poems may feel high-level and intricate—a quality Belcourt has developed through academia—and there’s much to parse from each one, his words also connect on an emotional level. Anyone who’s suffered heartache can empathize with much of the imagery and concepts in these poems, while also picking up on his greater call to understand the grief of Indigenous peoples. This deeply honest collection will leave you with some of the beginning pieces to imagine and build a new world.