GUELPH – Since making the shortlist as the possible first woman on a Canadian bank note, late Mohawk poet, writer and performer Pauline Johnson has received a lot of media attention. Fitting, because Flint and Feather: The Life and Times of E. Pauline Johnson, Tekahionwake has just become Guelph Ontario’s new must-read for 2016.
Panelist Brenda Lewis, a publicist and acclaimed jazz/roots vocalist defended Charlotte Gray’s award-winning and best-selling biography of Johnson in Guelph Reads 2016, garnering it the top applause from the enthusiastic participating audience.
On May 25, the fundraising organization Friends of Guelph Public Library presented their popular annual version of CBC’s Canada Reads at the library’s downtown main branch.
After this spirited, educational and entertaining event and surprised by her win in what she considered to be a close competition, Lewis emphatically stated that she is very grateful to Charlotte Gray for breathing life into Pauline’s timeless story and the eras in which she lived.
“She made Pauline real to me,” said Lewis. “I’m very glad to have won because I absolutely loved my chosen book and am passionate about sharing Pauline’s essential story — that of a First Nations, Canadian and early feminist heroine.”
Lewis is no stranger to Pauline Johnson, so when asked to be on the Guelph Reads panel and to select a book, Gray’s biography was a natural choice. It had been on her must-read list for years. Almost two decades ago an old friend gave Lewis a 1917 edition of Johnson’s Flint and Feather poetry collection in hopes that melodies would ensue.
It turned out that Pauline became a longtime muse to Lewis and she has since put two of Pauline’s poems to music. One being “The Birds’ Lullaby” and the other “A Toast (to Vancouver)”, is currently in the works.
“All of this certainly will help bring new generations to learn about Pauline — as they should,” said Lewis.
Also on the local celebrities panel with Lewis were city councillor Phil Allt championing Michael Crummey’s Galore, head of policy/research for the Ontario Good Roads Association Scott Butler with The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood, and, Guelph Wellington Seniors Association president Judith Carson defending The Long Way Home by mystery writer Louise Penny.
More about Flint and Feather: The Life and Times of Pauline Johnson, Tekahionwake at: www.harpercollins.ca/9781443403030/flint-and-feather.