Do not sell this plot.

Give it back, the way

beach foam returns

its dead-creature

legions in a salty, shell-

spiked row. Dismantle

your house. Strip it

down to bone, then boil

the bones for the birds.

Un-shingle the roof,

bits of tar paper hitting

like hail. Evict your six-

and-eight-legged tenants

with a love as noxious

as fumigated air. Next,

evict yourself to live in

knapsack tents, under

glimmers and mutters

and stories of sky.

Colonize nothing. It is not

your place, even if you

have swabbed your inner

cheek’s mitochondria

and proven that these

sixteen miles were once

your great-great-great-

great’s farm. No matter.

Do not farm the acres.

And gift them to another

homo sapiens only

if they vow to return

the long-maligned land

back to its whole self again.

Questions and Answers

Sadie McCarney is a queer, neurodivergent settler writer/performer based on Epekwitk (Charlottetown, PEI). She is the author of the poetry collection Live Ones(University of Regina Press, 2019; UK edition from tall-lighthouse, 2020) and the chapbook Head War (Frog Hollow Press, 2021), which is also the text of her one-woman show of the same name (premiering at Island Fringe Festival 2021). Sadie’s work has appeared in publications and anthologies including Best Canadian Poetry (2015, 2017’s “Best of the Best,” and 2020), The Walrus, Grain, Literary Review of Canada, Plenitude, CV2, Prairie Fire, EVENT, The Antigonish Review, The Puritan, The Malahat Review, and Room.


Is there a specific moment that inspired you to write poetry?

The ‘moment’ that comes to mind is after I’d been writing poetry for about a year. I was a student in the writing program at school for the arts in Massachusetts, and I had just placed in a poetry contest for high school girls in MA. I read my nominated poem at a school assembly – the whole school, including some very vociferous musical theatre students who liked to belt showtunes in the hallways of the academic building. So I read my poem, and as I was reading I noticed something: the whole auditorium was silent. Everyone. Even the showtune-belters. The proverbial pin could have dropped, and I would have heard it. So I’d been writing poetry before that, but that was the first moment when I thought, hey, I could actually make a go of this.


As a published writer, what are your tips or words of motivation for the aspiring poet?

Work on it: read, read out loud, and imitate—but only to learn how others did it. Know that the publishing industry is random, mercurial, and based largely on chance and whim – but find the strength (or maybe hubris?) to send your poems out anyway. Listen to criticism, but not all criticism. Working with other people’s advice in mind will make you a stronger writer. Also, know intimately what kind of writing you’re sending out, so your sonnet doesn’t end up at an experimental zine or your short performance poem doesn’t get presented as a full-length book. Finally, endeavour to know yourself. This will show on the page, in the performance, and in your life.


What inspired or motivated you to write this poem?

The bonkers housing and land market. Also the great, disgusting horror of Canada: how settlers have ruthlessly colonized the land and brutally made genocide against its diverse Indigenous peoples. In my poem, I tried to imagine an imperative where we have to let the land just—be, after all that violence and cruelty. A period of relaxation for the land, perhaps, before we move on to a (hopefully) more just and equitable future.


How did your writing process unfold around this poem? How did you write, edit, and refine it?

Most of my poems start as a solid page of text—a sort of loosely poetic prose amalgam where I’m trying to hammer out the ideas, first, and then maybe a few lines of wording. From this primordial goo emerge a few ‘knockout’ lines (in this case, the beach foam, and the bit about great-great-great-greats) and so the poem sort of crystallizes around them. I never know how the line breaks will fall, unless I am writing in a specific form, but with “Unsettle” the lines formed pretty organically. There was one full draft on night A. Then I let it rest like a loaf of bread, with a second pass on night B where I removed lines and phrases that didn’t quite fit. Third pass came about a week later, where I filled in what I saw as gaps and smoothed over some rougher, more prosaic, and less polished wording.

Then I submitted it to Canadian Literature!

This poem “Unsettle” originally appeared in Canadian Literature 248 (2022): 121.

Please note that works on the Canadian Literature website may not be the final versions as they appear in the journal, as additional editing may take place between the web and print versions. If you are quoting reviews, articles, and/or poems from the Canadian Literature website, please indicate the date of access.