Description

In Approaching Fire, Michelle Porter embarks on a quest to find her great-grandfather, the Métis fiddler and performer Léon Robert Goulet. Through musicology, jigs and reels, poetry, photographs, and the ecology of fire, Porter invests biography with the power of reflective ingenuity, creating a portrait that expands beyond documentation into a private realm where truth meets metaphor.

Weaving through multiple genres and traditions, Approaching Fire fashions a textual documentary of rescue and insight, and a glowing contemplation of the ways in which loss can generate unbridled renewal.

Awards

  • Long-listed, BMO Winterset Award 2020
  • Short-listed, Next Generation Indie Book Awards, Regional Non-Fiction Category 2021
  • Short-listed, Indigenous Voices Awards for Published Prose in English, Creative Non-Fiction and Life-Writing Category 2021
  • Long-listed, First Nation Communities Read Awards 2021
  • Winner, The Miramichi Reader's Most Promising Author Award 2020
  • Runner-up, IPPY Awards: Best Regional Non-Fiction: Canada-West 2022

Reviews

"Michelle Porter’s Approaching Fire is an incredible book - searching, finding and sharing the story of her great-grandfather, Métis fiddler Bob Goulet. Fittingly, there is such a music to this book: it moves in movements. "

- Chantelle Rideout

“I've never read a book quite like this before… Approaching Fire is a documentary you can hold in your hands, in which, rather than being a passive witness to scenes unfolding, you become immersed in a river of poetry. Author Michelle Porter uses a mixture of genres to create an account of her journey to uncover the history of her Métis roots, stretching from Newfoundland to British Columbia, Alberta to Saskatchewan, and finally digging deeply into Manitoba. Michelle travels through the stories she was raised on, using them as a base from which to understand the accounts of others, learning all she can about her Great Great Grandfather, Léon Robert (Bob) Goulet, renowned fiddler and performer. Her Pépé. In his story, her story, a wider history of the Métis people is told. A history of racial discrimination, stolen land rights, and the question of what truly unites and defines Métis identity. This book blazes with poetic beauty, and a voice Canada needs to hear. ”

- More Books Than Days

“And thus, by poetry and prose and the careful unearthing of the truth, is history rewritten. This beautiful work is both lyrical and powerful and worthy of several reads.”

- The Minerva Reader

Approaching Fire is an exploration of absence, erasure, and the irrepressible yearning to discover what has been suppressed… With little to go on, Porter creates something of a scrapbook of her hit-and-miss search: a patchwork of poems, semi-scholarly expositions on the science of controlled burnings and intergenerational traumas, and excerpts from an oral history going back to the dying days of the buffalo hunt… Porter’s poetry shines, especially as she focuses on the often anguished and frustrated experience of her quest. Some of the best poems employ metaphors of beadwork—negotiating the needle’s passage, the blood of a pricked finger, the tension of threads. Ultimately, Porter does not answer all of her questions, but merely posing them and letting them hang might be enough. It might also help mark this book as part of an emergent decolonizing literature, a kind of shadow companion to Alberto Manguel’s A History of Reading. Think of it as an unreading of history: a reckoning with all that has been written off, written out, and written over.”

- Heather Menzies