Writers' Rooms: Janet Marie Rogers

Janet Marie Rogers

To begin, I want to point out that my computer, my keeper of words, is off to the side (to the left) of centre. This is significant as my writing is only part of what I do to earn a living. Other writers, you feeling me? I am also a drum maker, a teacher of drum making, a radio host of two shows, one paid, one volunteer, and as one of my writing mentors pointed out, “You’ll make more money as a writer than you will writing,” so yes, I do public readings and get paid for that too.

“Writer” comes second when describing me. Mohawk/Tuscarora comes first. Thus the significant False Face mask in the centre of the wall, which was purchased in Ottawa while doing a Canada Council literary jury, another means of sporadic income. The paintings on either side of the “crooked-nose” are more reminders of my eastern native heritage. The left-hand painting, over the computer, was done by a Toronto-based, Ojibway artist, Richard Bedwash, who recently passed away. The painting on the right-hand side, which I titled "Geronimo," was done by a Vancouver-based Cree artist, Gerry Whitehead. These paintings and other art objects are very meaningful to me as they represent my unique perspective: an Eastern Woodland person living on the west coast. This perspective has fuelled my writing and has provided much inspiration in both my personal and creative life ever since I took up residence on this bit of unceded Coast Salish territory fourteen years ago.

My space, with the word machine and the art, is very Indian. Our words and visuals are married together. Our cultures are born from the things we value and our words help define what those values are. If we can claim it, we can name it. Historically, this has been the case, yes? So I want to explain: although my writing space is adorned with “object de art” what I’m really surrounding myself with is “medicine,” memories of home and who I am. The Northwest Coast carvings are there too, and they too, are medicine, west coast medicine. These items are presents of honour gifted to me by the artists who made them, providing evidence that I have come here from another place and have done some good—good enough to be gifted anyway—and I am very honoured by that.

I am Mohawk/Tuscarora, of that there is no doubt. It is my culture, my energy and my attitude. I am also west coast, in the sense that this land has embraced me and in doing so has granted me permission to live out my life’s purpose here as a writer. I was born in British Columbia and have made a promise to this land that I’ll live out my days here. My writing space is a little nest in a huge forest.

Biography:

A Mohawk writer from the Six Nations territory in southern Ontario, Janet Marie Rogers was born in Vancouver British Columbia. She began her creative career as a visual artist and started writing in 1996. Her literary passions are her native heritage, feminism, historical territories, human love, sexuality and spirit. Janet has many anthology credits as a writer and receives many invitations to share her performance poetry all over North America. Her first collection of poems, Splitting the Heart, was published by Ekstasis Editions in 2007. Her most recent accomplishments include the creation of a video poem entitled “Rightful Place” and hosting Vancouver Island’s only native radio program on CFUV 101.9fm in Victoria called “Native Waves Radio.”