After beginning to write poetry in 2016 as a way to express herself, Ashley Qilavaq-Savard continued to work on her craft until she was able to publish over 20 poems in a book that spans themes such as identity, intergenerational trauma and life on earth. . (Photo courtesy of Ashley Qilavaq-Savard)
“Where the Sea Kuniks the Land” covers themes of identity, healing and life on land
Iqaluit resident Ashley Qilavaq-Savard, after discovering poetry as a way to cope with grief, published her first book of poetry.
Where the sea kuniks the landpublished on November 1 by Inhabit Media, contains 22 poems, each tied to a season.
Qilavaq-Savard’s work addresses a variety of themes such as identity, trauma, healing and life in the land.
She started writing in 2016 and, like any beginner, wasn’t very good at first, she said. But she continued to write.
It wasn’t until 2019, when her grandmother died, that Qilavaq-Savard turned more to poetry to deal with her grief. She wrote a poem a week, she said.
As her writing improved, Qilavaq-Savard found that she needed about 20 poems to get a book of poetry published. So, after fine-tuning her work, she submitted her book to Inhabit Media in September 2020.
“For me, it was allowing myself to be bad at it,” Qilavaq-Savard said.
That, and perseverance too.
Qilavaq-Savard said that in addition to writing continuously, she also participated in workshops. After learning the skills she thought she needed, she was able to improve on some of her previous work.
“It was like, ‘OK, I remember what I was trying to say here, but now I have the skills to express myself better,'” Qilavaq-Savard said.
She changed some of the previous poems and they are included in her book.
Qilavaq-Savard said poetry is a way to express yourself about the real issues that Inuit face. But for some of the themes in her book, like in her poems about intergenerational trauma and lateral violence, she’s still working out how best to express how she feels.
“It’s tricky, because I write from my own experience, and it’s very different for all other Inuit,” she says.
Being in nature, especially the Arctic, inspired her. Qilavaq-Savard said seeing the sun catching the snow in a perfect way is an example of a scene that makes her want to write.
Spending time on earth also inspired the title of the book.
During the pandemic isolation period, Qilavaq-Savard went out to observe the sea at low tide. She observed that the waves, coming in and out, seemed to give the shore a kunik, which is a kiss where two people rub noses.
From there, she thought about the title of her book.
“I like to think that we can be in harmony with nature and that nature itself can be in harmony,” she said.