These words came to me in a dream during the summer of 2019, when I started getting together regularly with my sisters-in-law and my cousin's wife to share poems or stories we had read or written ourselves in the past. Although it may seem cliché to say I received a poem in my dreams, it’s the truth. Sometimes visuals come to me in dreams, like drawings or paintings or certain themes for artwork, but this was the first time it had been words, so I was surprised.
I dreamt I was in a university classroom with hundreds of other students when the professor started taking attendance. When the professor came across my name, “Nancy Uquutaq Saunders,” he began to stutter.
“Nancy Oku, ukuu, akuuta… How in God’s name do we pronounce this?”
He laughed and presented the name on the classroom screen. When I realized he was struggling with my name, I quickly proceeded down the stairs to teach him how to pronounce this tongue twister. Before I got there, a woman in the classroom exclaimed "it's a typo!” This is when I stopped, turned to the class and spoke the words of this poem below. Everyone abruptly stopped laughing and remained silent.
When I was done speaking, I woke up. It was about five in the morning when I opened my eyes. As I recited the words in my head, I felt a flush of emotions, goosebumps and a sense of urgency to write it down so as to not forget it. I jumped out of bed and scrambled for a working pen and a piece of paper. In two minutes, these words were in front of me. I felt overwhelmed with joy, I felt pride in my given name and I couldn’t help but feel grateful for these words, which I am now happy to share with you.
U. Q. U. U. T. A. Q.
Erreur de Frappe?
N. O. M.
C’est un nom.
C’est mon nom.
Difficile à prononcer?
Dites Okuta, Ukutak, Akutak si vous le voulez, mais voulez.
Laissez ce nom étranger traversé vos lèvres et prononcez.
Prononcez ce triple U et ce double Q car c’est un nom que je porte avec fierté.
Nom d’une grand-mère qui a tout donné
Nom d’une matriarche qui a tout perdu
Nom, enfant, Mari
N. O. N.
Elle a tout gagné!
Car je porte son nom et je vis.
U. Q. U. U. T. A. Q.
Is that a typo?
N. A. M. E.
It’s a name.
It’s MY name.
Hard to pronounce?
Say: Okuta, Ukutak, even Akutak if you want—but DO want.
Let this strange name pass over your lips and pronounce.
Pronounce the triple U and the double Q because this is a name I wear with pride.
This is the name of a grandmother who gave Everything.
This is the name of a matriarch who lost Everything.
Her Name. Her Child. Her Husband.
She gained Everything
Because I bear her name and I live.
This series was made possible with the generous support of the Ontario Arts Council.
This series was made possible with the generous support of the TD Ready Commitment.