One of Quebec's most celebrated poets, Marie-Andrée Gill is a member of the Ilnu Nation who engages with the oral storytelling tradition in her award-winning French language work. Also an acclaimed Radio-Canada host, Gill is known for exploring intimacy and relationships through a unique decolonial lens, weaving in humour, history, the land, and vernacular language. Gill populates her lines with food, beers, snowmobiles, icy winters, and the electricity of desire, in poems that turn on pin-point moments of both laughter and heartbreak.
The micro-poems of her newest collection, Heating the Outdoors (translated by Kristen Renee Miller, who previously translated Gill's 2020 collection Spawn), effortlessly perform heavy literary lifting in sparse spaces. Gill's trademark irreverence, honesty, and wit shine as she takes apart the clockwork of longing, regret, and domestic life, skipping from awkward moments with exes to exquisite interior landscapes with equal ease.
We're excited to present an excerpt from Heating the Outdoors, on an appropriately frigid day, courtesy of Book*hug Press. Enjoy a peek at this collection, packed with short poems that hit with laser precision.
Excerpt from Heating the Outdoors Marie-Andrée Gill, translated by Kristen Renee Miller:
You’re the clump of blackened spruce
that lights my gasoline-soaked heart
It’s just impossible you won’t be back
to quench yourself in my crème-soda
Like nothing ever happened, the lakes keep mass-producing sheep, the people huffing photos, and the machines triggering vertigo and spouting baloney.
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Sometimes I close my eyes and pretend I’m there:
You flip the choke, yank the cord, and we take off in a black cloud. With this much snow, we can’t break down; I’m not even wearing a coverall. I’m enveloped by something like that saying, everything in its own place. You steer through trees in the dark, turn on a dime. Branches in my face, flakes in my eyes—with you I’d never get stranded.
It would make a good title for something, I tell myself:
Dances with ski-doos.
Still, I wish we’d poached again, that you’d laced up my fur in your fingerless gloves, that you’d wrung out my heart like mounting a pelt to a frame. I’d have shown you I can smile at myself as a carcass of the word dread.
On days when things are just okay, I turn up at le monde,
the world you can enter without knocking.
With my storm damage seeping
through all my concealment, I let loose my call:
have you got beer, mate / have you got beer, mate
if there’s no beer, mate / I’m fucking off, mate.
I’m not thinking of you
Still writing to survive, I make to-do lists, interpret fading images from good dreams: fried onions and hot soups, chanterelles and apple tarts, our accidents of simple happiness.
Even as dreams lose their contours, this practice gleams solid—the materiality of words. I know what to do and not do. I have the manual for these things, the rituals.
Something in me keeps its lamp on—a rip, not a wound but like when clouds break open, between the lungs, an impulse that can’t help but look for trouble, pick a fight, try anything that—
I’m still hoping
for a door cracking open
for a daybreak
between the lines of our story
But I admit
I would trade my heart simply
for a good bowl of macaroni
It’s a love story like all my others
a bus marked Select
with nobody on board
Ilnu Nation member Marie-Andrée Gill grew up on the Mashteuiatsh reserve in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region in Quebec, home to the Pekuakamishkueu community. She is the acclaimed author of three French-language poetry collections from La Peuplade: Béante, Frayer, and Chauffer le dehors. Two of her books have been translated into English by Kristen Renee Miller, including Spawn (2020) and Heating the Outdoors (2023). A doctoral student in literature, Gill’s research and creative work focus on the decolonial project of writing the intimate. She hosts the award-winning Radio-Canada podcast “Laissez-nous raconter: L’histoire crochie” (Telling Our Twisted Histories), which “reclaims Indigenous history by exploring words whose meanings have been twisted by centuries of colonization.” Gill’s work has been nominated for many awards, including the Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry, and she is a three-time recipient of the Salon du Livre Prize in Poetry. She has also won two Indigenous Voices Awards, including the Best Published Poetry in French prize for Chauffer le dehors. Also in 2020, Gill was named Artist of the Year by the Quebec Council of Arts and Letters.
Kristen Renee Miller is the executive director and editor-in-chief for Sarabande Books. A poet and translator, she is a 2023 NEA Fellow and the translator of two books from the French by poet Marie-Andrée Gill: Spawn (2020) and Heating the Outdoors (2023). Her work can be found widely, including in POETRY, The Kenyon Review, and Best New Poets. She is the recipient of fellowships and awards from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, AIGA, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Gulf Coast Prize in Translation, and the American Literary Translators Association. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky.