Poets Natalie Harkin and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson reflect on their poem 'we are the moon', commissioned for Fair Trade as part of Poetry Month 2021

It is a strange thing to be asked to write a poem with someone you don’t know, whose territory I’ve never stood on and culture I don’t know, during a pandemic and mediated by the dreaded Zoom. I was reluctant to commit because all the elements I rely on to write – connection, relationship, and embodied experience had all been removed from the project. And when nothing can be done, our Ancestors always continued to make life and to create their worlds. I think this is what Natalie and I did. The fabric of our poetic relationality was our Nishnaabe and Narungga ethics and practices around land, relationship and each other. I think Natalie’s words capture our first Zoom meeting so perfectly – our experiences with the pandemic and the climate catastrophe, Palestine and India, the global movement for Black life, teenagers and stay at home orders, the moon, shining over both of us. We wove those understandings together in this piece. Natalie is such an incredible poet and generous person, she gave me/us a very rich 3 part piece that was generative to me. Her words invited my heart and mind to respond and be in dialogue with her, to think and write alongside, even though.

~ Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

I remember the night we yarned across time-zones. Leanne was beginning her day as I was ending mine. We opened with grandmother stories followed by what was pressing in our worlds. We closed with the healing power of trees and gardens and decided to write through the phase of the super pink moon toward a red blood lunar eclipse. It was an unspeakable month. The globe spun further into violent madness and our domestic fronts were marked by trauma. It felt impossible to write into the weight of the world and carry whole communities of heavy hearts in one poem, yet it was the only thing to do. This is a generative offering, rising from that relational space only hard conversations can create. It was a challenge to carve out time to do this opportunity justice. It was a challenge to trust myself; to click 'send', and exchange words with this incredible intellectual warrior whose creativity, scholarship and activism has been a brilliant beacon of inspiration to many of us for so long. I think this poem represents an unexpected moment in time that feels epic, intimate and fleeting, and above all, grounded in respect.

Thank you, Leanne, for writing into the moon with me.

~ Natalie Harkin