Armand Garnet Ruffo’s work is strongly influenced by his Ojibway heritage. He teaches Native literature at Queen’s University and is the author of three collections of poetry, Opening In The Sky (1994), At Geronimo’s Grave(2001), winner of the Archibald Lampman Award for Poetry, and the acclaimed Grey Owl: the Mystery of Archie Belaney (1997). In 2010 his feature film “A Windigo Tale” won Best Picture at the 35th American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco, and the Best Feature film at the Dreamspeaker Film Festival in Edmonton. In 2013 he co-edited a new edition of An Anthology of Canadian Native Literature in English(OUP). A creative biography, Man Changing Into Thunderbird, on the acclaimed Ojibway artist Norval Morrisseau will appear in 2014 with Douglas & McIntyre; an accompanying collection of poetry, The Thunderbird Poems will appear in 2015.
Questions & Answers
Is there a specific moment that inspired you to pursue poetry? How/where do you find inspiration today?
Being of Ojibway heritage, I draw much of my poetic inspiration from the history and culture of First Nations peoples in Canada. In this regard, it is important for me to write something that engages with society in general, and speaks to both Indigenous and Settler Canadians. Another big influence on my writing is the First Nations oral tradition of storytelling, which figures prominently in my work. As such, many of my poems have a narrative quality to them, often inspired by specific historical events (such as “Poem for Duncan Campbell Scott” which is about my great-great grandfather meeting Scott during the treaty negotiations in 1905). In this regard, my poems often employ what is called a dramatic persona, in which I write from the perspective and ’voice’ of someone other than myself.