Délani Valin uses her poetry to discuss subjects that matter to her, whether it’s exploring issues of mental health, diversity or cultural tensions.
She recently won the Malahat Review’s Long Poem Prize for her piece No Buffalos. The poem examines issues of identity.
“I think everyone has so much going on in their own identities. For me being Métis has always been a huge and confusing part of my own identity because there are so many different tensions that arise in terms of either being traditional or trying to fit within Métis or within the dominant culture,” said Valin.
One example, says Valin, is being vegan. The food she eats is very different than some of the traditional foods her grandparents and ancestors ate.
“There are sort of different disconnects like that and tensions like that arise everywhere in life and I wanted to sort of document and explore those,” said Valin.
As the long poem prize winner, Valin received $1,000 and No Buffalos will be featured in the summer issue of the Malahat Review.
Valin wrote the poem as part of a class at Vancouver Island University, where she is currently pursuing a degree in creative writing. It helped to have deadlines to keep her motivated, said Valin.
“I couldn’t always put it off if I felt intimidated by just the scope of what I was doing. There was always something pushing me forward so that was really helpful for this project,” she said.
Valin’s exploration of language and poetry began as a child. She remembers picking up a thesaurus around age 10 and creating poems.
“I would just open the thesaurus and find neat sounding words and sort of smash them together,” said Valin, adding that many of the words she chose didn’t make sense in the context of the poem. “I was learning how to play with language, I guess.”
Becoming a published poet takes risk, said Valin.
“I think a published poet will definitely have a record of rejections,” she said.
Valin’s work has appeared in Adbusters, Soliloquies Anthology, Portal and Those Who Make Us. In 2016 she won subTerrain’s Lush Triumphant Literary Award for her poetry series Modern Myths.