Joseph A. Dandurand
Guernica Editions, 2020
Reviewed by Kashmir Lesnick-Petrovicz
“Over time you begin to understand/who you are and why you are here” (111)
I Will Be Corrupted is a fictional tale of a Kwantlen man living on Vancouver’s downtown east side who is both healer and heroin addict. Dandurand’s collection explores the painful battle of a life defined by addiction and mental health struggles, love and loss, trauma and Indigenous tradition, and forgiveness and eventual redemption.
I Will Be Corrupted includes 57 relatable, raw, and heart-wrenchingly honest poems that play with fragments, unusual structure, and illusions so that each page is a new day unknown until we live it. Layer by layer, Dandurand exposes the vulnerabilities and sorrows of insatiable addiction, the inescapable call of corruption, and the unfathomable anguish of losing friends and loved ones to anxiety, suicide, and depression.
His poems have a distinct form, often beginning with a series of run-on sentences that taper off into a handful of words in the final stanza. He skillfully builds thematic tension, a force released with the final word of the work that leaves the reader breathless. This is demonstrated in “Deep in the corner of my eye,” a poem about a man struggling with his inner demons who seeks redemption:
“today I fight the demons / in my mind who show / up from time to time / …so I walk into / the river and I dunk / myself four times… I step out of the water / and all the demons retreat / into the tree and on the / tallest tree sits an eagle / who whistles to me / and in the deep corner / of my eye I see the words / forming in a silhouette / of forgiveness / and the / word / I see / is / mercy.”
His poetry also illuminates the dependence and injustice on the reservation as well as off it. His speaks to the intergenerational trauma that Indigenous people face from the legacy of pain brought on by colonialism and residential schools. This is made apparent in “The Magic of guilt”, where rage and retribution set the tone:
“if ever I am kneeling / in a church please help / me pour the gasoline and / lock the one door and give / me some of that sacred wine / and together we can light / this bitch on fire…”
Just as important are the moments of reprieve, poems that allude to grace, gratitude, and healing. They are offered as tales of Indigenous spirits and cultural traditions, of characters floating down the river catching fish in the sun, of discovering solace in the small things and hope in the younger generation.
In the end, Dandurand comes to a space of healing and acceptance, echoed in the work “She Stands”: “…and I can look into the mirror / and I am no longer ashamed / of the scars on my face…”
ForDandurand, life is about coming out the other side, picking up the pieces, and carrying on—and choosing to do so over and over again. I Will Be Corrupted celebrates resilience, strength, and the determination to fight back despite barriers to reconciliation and change
Joseph A. Dandurand is a storyteller, poet, and playwright from the Kwantlen First Nation who studied Performing Arts at Algonquin College and Theatre and Direction at the University of Ottawa. He has published 13 books of poetry including: SH:LAM (the doctor), The Rumour, and I Want. His children’s play Th’owixiya: The Hungry Feast Dish was reviewed in Portal 2020. He has served as the heritage/Lands Officer for his people for 14 years.
You will be corrupted by Dandurand’s anguish, his honesty, his profound interpretation of the human experience—it is the kind of corruption we both fear and desperately need.