Welcome to another installment of Meet our SWG Members!
Today’s featured guild member is Kenn Pitawanakwat. Kenn wrote a memoir and is a poet. Learn more about Kenn’s writing journey below.
Kenn Pitawanakwat is a reserved storyteller.
Kenn published his first poem at fifteen entitled “Oh Great Spirit.” The thoughts express the innate desire of journey and escape from the present and back to the author’s history, culture, and community. Kenn tells the story of praying for a pen with an exact and textured grip and telling his grandparents to buy it for him on their long journey from the white-washed log cabin reserve farm to some far-off exotic city Kenn could only imagine – Sudbury. Kenn had been inspired by his grandparents’ stories of old and oratorical skills, and uncle who had a book or two on Judo.
Many visitors would visit the old farm, the last one to reach by horse and sleigh or wagon to politely ask his grandpa to decipher foreign letters (English) into Odawa or the Nishinaabe language. It was here that Kenn absorbed the banter of millennia old language and thought and shaped his desire to scribe. O Great Spirit survives today thanks to one teacher – and the creator of the worlds, who got him published. Kenn is the first and only one from his family to finish high school where he discovered talent for art, and an Honours Baccalaureate where writing came naturally, and a Master’s in Individualized Studies where again the encouragement to write and publish gained momentum.
Kenn resides in two worlds. One in Greater Sudbury and the other on the Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve on Manitoulin Island. Kenn remembers trying to find pen pals as a child. Little did one know it was a deep innate desire to write and express friendship. Eager to work with and associate with other writers Kenn chose the Sudbury Writers’ Guild, as it was close to home and the entry fee was cheap. The pandemic cut the momentum soon after Kenn’s arrival. Now that the pandemic is seemingly on retreat, Kenn looks forward to breathing the same air as respected story tellers from the Sudbury Writers’ Guild. Listening to great stories from experienced authors is the fruit that keeps Kenn intrigued.
My goal is to write a best-seller. Fiction, novel, etcetera. Like my sporadic attendance at group events, Kenn’s writing reflects the pattern. Here, there, not here, and back and start over, then go for a nap describes Kenn’s approach to writing. The best time for writing is from approximately three (3:00) AM.
Positive, non-judgmental, and inspirational story telling has developed or grown an inch as it were during the pandemic. The story of life in all its beauty and trials is central to Kenn’s trajectory. Kenn is working on a beauty, something hopeful, light yet deep. The pieces are placed into a neat pile or two.
The kitchen counter or a very large desk or the couch are workspaces.
Long-hand silver was a friend of mine. That was the longhand approach used in Ryerson. Why? Did not know how to type. Fellow classmates were awesome at typewriters while Kenn pushed a HP pencil across the page and produced quality material noticed by creative writing faculty. When computers arrived, Kenn was the second one in Wikwemikong (“that I knew of”) who purchased one for the kids. Remember when one had the choice of an amber or green font? To this day, Kenn hunts and pecks across keyboards. Dictation to text on the PC or Mac has not gone well.
Since Kenn’s first born died, Kenn has been unable to complete works. A small sprout of poems and a collection of short thoughts that found themselves unto paper lie patiently in wait for completion. They shall and will get done!
The pandemic has forced Kenn to sit for a year on his couch (for essential work from home demands) and unable to save enough energy for passionate creations. Kenn is now retired and can focus on his family and writing. Pre-pandemic works are now piled, semi-sorted, and studied for the next step in their evolution.
During the pandemic, Kenn has buried several family and extended family members and [it] took the wind out of his writing tasks. These types of losses have been a way of life and will continue – but the pencil, as it were, will continue.
Appreciate what you have. Show gratitude. There is no tomorrow (as someone said, and I echo). Write nonsense. It does not matter. Write bull. Write your feelings. Write your thoughts are some things I would tell writers. After all, every program one watches on television or across the internet, someone must first imagine, then write into a story. Tell your story. Everyone has one. And do it with love. Bring kindness and not division. As that young boy of fifteen imagined, bring support, critique (constructively), encourage. Do not divide. We are all one.
My successes have been short jaunts, yet I have been published as a young child, then as an academic in an obscure journal no one will remember. But it feels good. It was a good accomplishment. I did it! Five minutes at Hotel Stormcove and Voice on the Water were anthologies I was fortunate to participate with short stories. Yes!
O GREAT SPIRIT
O Great Spirit! if only you took me back
Back to the time of our ancestors,
Back, it’s the time when our forefathers learned medicines of magic,
When they lived in teepees,
Grew up and became expert huntsmen and men of bravery.
O Great Spirit, if only I knew all the ways of our forefathers; If only you could teach me,
Then I too would teach my people of their ways long forgotten.
O Great Spirit! it is sad to think of how we dulled our lives
With our forgotten skills.
If only I was to know the ways of our gods then I would help my people in all ways.
It is sad to think of all these things. O Great Spirit!
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