etched in steel(e) Dr. Suzanne M. Steele — editor analyst writer researcher


S.M. Steele PhD (Exon) Master of Library & Information Science (UWO) BMus (UBC), Postdoctoral Researcher (ULeth) Senior Research Fellow (Hon) (Exon)

Welcome newcomers, and welcome back my 350,000+ faithful readers of my retired website. By popular demand, there are plans afoot to reboot in 2024, so watch this space!

A lot has happened in the decade + since I began my diary, the road to war in Afghanistan with the Canadian Infantry as Canada’s first poet to serve as an official war artist (Task Force 3-09). One of the major outcomes of this work was a war requiem, with composer Jeff Ryan, Afghanistan: Requiem for a Generation, commissioned by the Calgary Philharmonic in 2012, and last performed by the Vancouver Symphony, the Calgary Philharmonic, and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in 2017 at Roy Thompson Hall. In 2024 a commercial CD of the war requiem will be released. Another outcome of the war artist work is a video installation, Road to War, that has exhibited in France, Scotland, and several galleries in Canada.

Within months of returning from the war work I was contacted and awarded a fully-funded PhD from the University of Exeter, UK, where I spent the next several years. There, I was supervised by Professor Tim Kendall, a world expert on war literature and poetry (Poetry of the First World War, Oxford University Press), and Dr. Joe Crawford, a leading expert on Gothic literature and a consummate scholar, one able to recite entire epics off-the-cuff! I passed my viva in 2016 and graduated with my PhD (and here it is) in 2017. Immediately after graduating I won another major award, a Canada Council 150 New Chapter Award, to write a new opera on Louis Riel, with composer Neil Weisensel. The opera, Li KeurRiel’s Heart of the Northis written in three Indigenous languages (‘Heritage’ or Southern-Michif, French-Michif, and Anishinaabemowin, with the help of amazing Michif and Anishinaabeg translators), French, and English. The amazing Métis fiddler, Alex Kustoruk, joined our creative team and has co-composed the music for Li Keur which premiered in November 2023 with the Manitoba Opera. Other creative collaborators include Métis director, Simon Miron, choreographer, Yvonne Chartrand, and many others. The opera was sold-out, a huge success, and gained positive reviews.

In 2022, the fiddler and scholar, Dr. Monique Giroux (ULeth) offered me a postdoctoral research position to begin work on a multi-year project, The Red River Jig Network, along with Métis poet, scholar, and novelist, Dr. Michelle Porter (Memorial). With two fabulous research assistants, Lily Overacker (Métis) and Dillon Apsassin (Blueberry River First Nation), our team is looking at the historical and cultural provenance of the Red River Jig and the cultural networks the music and dance has traversed. This music and dance performs identity, nationhood, familial ties, and spirituality (health and well being) for a peoples often in diaspora. This is exciting and innovative work and I am thrilled to be part of such a dynamic team.

A note on the site’s wallpaper — a closeup of Damascus steel. One of the best aspects of studying in the UK at a top-10 university, being a member a research organization based at the University of Oxford, and of the innovative  1914FACES2014 research team, was my exposure to some of the most advanced researchers and research in the world. A lecture that stands out in my mind from that time was given by the archaeo-metallurgist Dr. Gillian Juleff of the University of Exeter. Dr. Juleff has done extensive research on early steel smelting techniques, notably the monsoon furnaces of Sri Lanka. Juleff’s research argues convincingly of early steel production utilizing the wind power of the monsoons, notably to make the famed Damascus steel forged in the hills of India, a prize trade good for centuries known for its superior strength. My company name, plays with my last name, but also alludes to the possibilities of forging new, robust ideas through hard work, serendipity, and creativity.