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On ancestors and exes: Plains Cree poet Emily Riddle explores kinship, the colonial project of Canada, and climate change in ‘The Big Melt’

This week on The Write Question, host Lauren Korn speaks with poet Emily Riddle, author of The Big Melt (Nightwood Editions), a debut collection rooted in Nehiyaw (Cree) thought and urban millennial life events. The Big Melt examines what it means to repair kinship, contend with fraught history, go home and contemplate “prairie ndn utopia” in the era of late capitalism and climate change.

In this award-winning collection (Griffin Poetry Prize, Indigenous Voices Award, High Plains Book Award), Emily asks, How does one live one’s life in a way that honors inherited responsibilities, a deep love for humor, and a commitment to always learning about the tension between a culture that deeply values collectivity and the autonomy of the individual? In this conversation, Lauren and Emily talk about art and place, the kinship of ancestors and exes, pop culture, colonialism, and climate change.

About Emily:

Emily Riddle is Nehiyaw and a member of the Alexander First Nation. A writer, editor, policy analyst, language learner and visual artist, she lives in Amiskwaciwâskahikan (Edmonton, Alberta). She is the senior advisor of Indigenous relations at the Edmonton Public Library. Her writing has been published in The Globe and Mail, Teen Vogue, The Malahat Review, and Room Magazine, among others. In 2021 she was awarded the Edmonton Artists’ Trust Award, and in 2023, she won the Griffin Poetry Prize (First Canadian Book Award), a High Plains Book Award (Poetry), and was a finalist for an Indigenous Voices Award. Emily Riddle is a semi-dedicated Oilers fan and a dedicated Treaty Six descendant who believes deeply in the brilliance of the Prairies and their people.

Emily Riddle recommends:

Bluets by Maggie Nelson (Wave Poetry)

Lauren Korn recommends:

The Big Melt by Emily Riddle (Nightwood Editions)

Bluets by Maggie Nelson (Wave Poetry)

Bad Cree by Jessica Johns (Doubleday Books)

This Wound is a World by Billy-Ray Belcourt (Frontenac House Ltd.; University of Minnesota Press)

Nature Poem by Tommy Pico (Tin House Books)

Bottom Rail on Top and Dream of No One But Myself by D.M. Bradford (Brick Books)

sulphurtongue by Rebecca Salazar (McClelland & Stewart; Penguin Random House Canada)

The Write Question team for this episode was Lauren Korn, host, co-producer, and editor; and Jake Birch, co-producer and editor; and Chris Moyles, sound engineer. This episode is sponsored by Elk River Books in Livingston, Montana, offering new, used, and rare books—and frequent author readings in their line-up of events offered each season. A full events calendar and online shopping can be found at

The Write Question logo and brand (2022) was designed by Molly Russell. You can see more of her work at and on Instagram @iamthemollruss. Our music was written and recorded by John Floridis.

Funding for The Write Question comes from Humanities Montana; members of Montana Public Radio; and from the Greater Montana Foundation—encouraging communication on issues, trends, and values of importance to Montanans.

The Write Question is a production of Montana Public Radio.

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Lauren R. Korn holds an M.A. in poetry from the University of New Brunswick, where she was the recipient of the Tom Riesterer Memorial Prize and the Angela Ludan Levine Memorial Book Prize. A former bookseller and the former Director of the Montana Book Festival, she is now an Arts and Culture Producer at Montana Public Radio and the host of it’s literature-based radio program and podcast, ‘The Write Question.’
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