Absentee Indians and Other Poems evokes personal yet universal experiences of the places that Native Americans call home, their family and national histories, and the emotional forces that help forge Native American identities. These are poems of exile, loss, and the celebration of that which remains. Anchored in the physical landscape, Blaeser’s poetry finds the sacred in those ordinary actions that bind a community together. As Blaeser turns to the mysterious passage from sleeping to wakefulness, or from nature to spirit, she reveals not merely the movement from one age or place to another, but the movement from experience to vision.
Highway 18 between Mission and Okreek, South Dakota, is a stretch of no more than eighteen miles, but late at night or in a blizzard it seems endless. "It feels like being somewhere between South Dakota and 'there,'" says Simon Ortiz, "perhaps at the farthest reaches of the galaxy."
Acoma Pueblo poet Ortiz spent a winter in South Dakota, teaching at Sinte Gleska College on the Rosebud Lakota Sioux Reservation. The bitter cold and driving snow of a prairie winter were a reality commanding his attention through its absolute challenge to survival and the meaning of survival.
Ortiz's way of dealing with the hard elements of winter was to write After and Before the Lightning, prose and verse poems that were his response to that long season between the thunderstorms of autumn and spring. "I needed a map of where I was and what I was doing in the cosmos," he writes. In these poems, which he regards as a book-length poetic work, he charts the vast spaces of prairie and time that often seem indistinguishable. As he faces the reality of winter on the South Dakota reservation, he also confronts the harsh political reality for its Native community and culture and for Indian people everywhere.
"Writing this poetry reconnected me to the wonder and awe of life," Ortiz states emphatically. Readers will feel the reality of that wonder and awe—and the cold of that South Dakota winter—through the gentle ferocity of his words.
Santee Frazier University of Arizona Press, 2019 Library of Congress PS3606.R429A6 2019 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
Unflinching and magnetic, the language and structure of Aurum never strays from its dedication to revealing the prominent reality of Native people being marginalized and discarded in the wake of industrial progress. While uncovering different forms of oppression that estrange Native Americans from their own land, these poems explore the raw and disturbing aspects of living in the wastelands of contemporary America.
Aurum does not attempt to provide answers or solutions. Instead, it splits the belly of North America and lays it bare into powerful words and unconventional structures. Brutally honest and incredibly fine tuned, this collection digs up “the grit where teeth once rooted” to show the objectification of Native peoples and cultures for the grotesque erasure it really is.
With images that taunt, disturb, and fascinate, Aurum captures the vibrantly original language in Santee Frazier’s first collection, Dark Thirty, while taking on a completely new voice and rhythm. Each poem is vivid and memorable, beckoning to be read again and again as the words lend an enhanced experience each time. Frazier has crafted a wrought-iron collection of poetry that never shies away from a truth that America often attempts to ignore.
Billboard in the Clouds
Suzanne S. Rancourt Northwestern University Press, 2003 Library of Congress PS3618.A48B57 2004 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
In this remarkable debut book of poems, winner of the Native Writers First Book Award, Suzanne S. Rancourt, presents her experience as a mixed-raced person seeking understanding through relationship with the natural world and dominant culture. Her family portraits are reminiscent of E. A. Robinson; her sensuous nature poems are imbued with love of earth as a "blessing."
my legs are explosions
of lustful wind
i converse through cracks in the walls
slipping in my true intention like a snow drift
on the inside
side of a door i pound
has become my wailing wall
i crave your tongue dusted
with words and implications
i have something you need
Wrapped in blankets and looking at the stars, a young Navajo girl listened long ago to stories that would guide her for the rest of her life. "Such summer evenings were filled with quiet voices, dogs barking far away, the fire crackling, and often we could hear the faint drums and songs of a ceremony somewhere in the distance," writes Luci Tapahonso in this compelling collection.
Blue Horses Rush In takes its title from a poem about the birth of her granddaughter Chamisa, whose heart "pounded quickly and we recognized / the sound of horses running: / the thundering of hooves on the desert floor." Through such personal insights, this collection follows the cycle of a woman's life and underlines what it means to be Navajo in the late twentieth century. The book marks a major accomplishment in American literature for its successful blending of Navajo cultural values and forms with the English language, while at the same time retaining the Navajo character. Here, Luci Tapahonso walks slowly through an ancient Hohokam village, recalling stories passed down from generation to generation. Later in the book, she may tell a funny story about a friend, then, within a few pages, describe family rituals like roasting green chiles or baking bread in an outside oven. Throughout, Tapahonso shares with readers her belief in the power of pollen and prayer feathers and sacred songs.
Many of these stories were originally told in Navajo, taking no longer than ten minutes in the telling. "Yet, in recreating them, it is necessary to describe the land, the sky, the light, and other details of time and place," writes Tapahonso. "In this way, I attempt to create and convey the setting for the oral text. In writing, I revisit the place or places concerned and try to bring the reader to them, thereby enabling myself and other Navajos to sojourn mentally and emotionally in our home, Dinétah."
A prolific voice in Native American writing for more than twenty years, Rose has been widely anthologized, and is the author of eight volumes of poetry. Bone Dance is a major anthology of her work, comprising selections from her previous collections along with new poems. The 56 selections move from observation of the earth to a search for one's place and identity on it. In an introduction written for this anthology, Rose comments on the place each past collection had in her development as a poet.
"Rich in poems which enhance our awareness of the human complexity of our social and moral dilemmas." —Book Review Digest
"There is a whisper in the wind among the chapters . . . and a singing rain beyond the window." —American Indian Culture Research Journal
In her dazzling new book, Jennifer Elise Foerster announces a frightening new truth: “the continent is dismantling.” Bright Raft in the Afterweather travels the spheres of the past, present, future, and eternal time, exploring the fault lines that signal the break of humanity’s consciousness from the earth.
Featuring recurring characters, settings, and motifs from her previous book, Leaving Tulsa, Foerster takes the reader on a solitary journey to the edges of the continents of mind and time to discover what makes us human. Along the way, the author surveys the intersection between natural landscapes and the urban world, baring parallels to the conflicts between Native American peoples and Western colonizers, and considering how imagination and representation can both destroy and remake our worlds.
Foerster’s captivating language and evocative imagery immerse the reader in a narrative of disorientation and reintegration. Each poem blends Foerster’s refined use of language with a mythic and environmental lyricism as she explores themes of destruction, spirituality, loss, and remembrance.
In a world wrought with ecological imbalance and grief, Foerster shows how from the devastated land of our alienation there is potential to reconnect to our origins and redefine the terms by which we inhabit humanity and the earth.
Brother Bullet: Poems
Casandra López University of Arizona Press, 2019 Library of Congress PS3612.O584A6 2019 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
Speaking to both a personal and collective loss, in Brother Bullet Casandra López confronts her relationships with violence, grief, guilt, and ultimately, endurance. Revisiting the memory and lasting consequences of her brother’s murder, López traces the course of the bullet—its trajectory, impact, wreckage—in lyrical narrative poems that are haunting and raw with emotion, yet tender and alive in revelations of light.
Drawing on migratory experiences, López transports the reader to the Inland Empire, Baja California, New Mexico, and Arizona to create a frame for memory, filled with imagery, through the cyclical but changing essence of sorrow. This is paralleled with surrounding environments, our sense of belonging—on her family’s porch, or in her grandfather’s orange grove, or in the darkest desert. López’s landscapes are geographical markers and borders, connecting shared experiences and memories.
Brother Bullet tugs and pulls, drawing us into a consciousness—a story—we all bear.
Cell Traffic presents new poems and uncollected prose poetry along with selected work from award-winning poet Heid Erdrich's three previous poetry collections. Erdrich's new work reflects her continuing concerns with the tensions between science and tradition, between spirit and body. She finds surprising common ground while exploring indigenous experience in multifaceted ways: personal, familial, biological, and cultural. The title, Cell Traffic, suggests motion and Erdrich considers multiple movements-cellular transfer, the traffic of DNA through body parts and bones, "migration" through procreation, and the larger "movements" of indigenousness and ancestral inheritance.
Erdrich's wry sensibility, sly wit, and keenly insightful mind have earned her a loyal following. Her point of view is always slightly off center, and this lends a particular freshness to her poetry. The debunking and debating of the science of origins is one of Erdrich's focal subjects. In this collection, she turns her observational eye to the search for a genetic mother of humanity, forensic anthropology's quest for the oldest known bones, and online offers of genetic testing. But her interests are not limited to science. She freely admits popular culture into her purview as well, referencing sci-fi television series and Internet pop-up ads.
Dan Taulapapa McMullin University of Arizona Press, 2013 Library of Congress PS3613.C58546C96 2013 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
Coconut Milk is a fresh, new poetry collection that is a sensual homage to place, people, love, and lust. The first collection by Samoan writer and painter Dan Taulapapa McMullin, the poems evoke both intimate conversations and provocative monologues that allow him to explore the complexities of being a queer Samoan in the United States.
McMullin seamlessly flows between exposing the ironies of Tiki kitsch–inspired cultural appropriation and intimate snapshots of Samoan people and place. In doing so, he disrupts popular notions of a beautiful Polynesia available for the taking, and carves out new avenues of meaning for Pacific Islanders of Oceania. Throughout the collection, McMullin illustrates various manifestations of geopolitical, cultural, linguistic, and sexual colonialism. His work illuminates the ongoing resistance to colonialism and the remarkable resilience of Pacific Islanders and queer-identified peoples.
McMullin’s Fa’a Fafine identity—the ability to walk between and embody both the masculine and feminine—creates a grounded and dynamic voice throughout the collection. It also fosters a creative dialogue between Fa’a Fafine people and trans-Indigenous movements. Through a uniquely Samoan practice of storytelling, McMullin contributes to the growing and vibrant body of queer Indigenous literature.
dg nanouk okpik; Foreword by Arthur Sze University of Arizona Press, 2012 Library of Congress PS3615.K75C67 2012 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
A self-proclaimed “vessel in which stories are told from time immemorial,” poet dg nanouk okpik seamlessly melds both traditional and contemporary narrative, setting her apart from her peers. The result is a collection of poems that are steeped in the perspective of an Inuit of the twenty-first century—a perspective that is fresh, vibrant, and rarely seen in contemporary poetics.
Fearless in her craft, okpik brings an experimental, yet poignant, hybrid aesthetic to her first book, making it truly one of a kind. “It takes all of us seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling to be one,” she says, embodying these words in her work. Every sense is amplified as the poems, carefully arranged, pull the reader into their worlds. While each poem stands on its own, they flow together throughout the collection into a single cohesive body.
The book quickly sets up its own rhythms, moving the reader through interior and exterior landscapes, dark and light, and other spaces both ecological and spiritual. These narrative, and often visionary, poems let the lives of animal species and the power of natural processes weave into the human psyche, and vice versa.
Okpik’s descriptive rhythms ground the reader in movement and music that transcend everyday logic and open up our hearts to the richness of meaning available in the interior and exterior worlds.
Heid E. Erdrich writes from the present into the future where human anxiety lives. Many of her poems engage ekphrasis around the visual work of contemporary artists who, like Erdrich, are Anishinaabe. Poems in this collection also curate unmountable exhibits in not-yet-existent museums devoted to the ephemera of communication and technology. A central trope is the mixtape, an ephemeral form that Erdrich explores in its role of carrying the romantic angst of American couples. These poems recognize how our love of technology and how the extraction industries on indigenous lands that technology requires threaten our future and obscure the realities of indigenous peoples who know what it is to survive apocalypse. Deeply eco-poetic poems extend beyond the page in poemeos, collaboratively made poem films accessible in the text through the new but already archaic use of QR codes. Collaborative poems highlighting lessons in Anishinaabemowin also broaden the context of Erdrich’s work. Despite how little communications technology has helped to bring people toward understanding one another, these poems speak to the keen human yearning to connect as they urge engagement of the image, the moment, the sensual, and the real.
A significant and innovative contribution to Austin studies. How did an Illinois Methodist homesteader in the West come to create one of the most significant cosmological syntheses in American literature? In this study, Hoyer draws on his own knowledge of biblical religion and Native American cultures to explore Austin's creation of the "mythology of the American continent" she so valued. Austin lived in and wrote about "the land of little rain," semiarid and arid parts of California and Nevada that were home to the Northern Paiute, Shoshone, Interior Chumash, and Yokut peoples. Hoyer makes new and provocative connections between Austin and spiritual figures like Wovoka, the prophet of the Ghost Dance religion, and writers like Zitkala-sa and Mourning Dove, and he provides a particularly fine reading of Cogowea.
Santee Frazier University of Arizona Press, 2009 Library of Congress PS3606.R429D37 2009 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
Writing sometimes in dialect, sometimes in gunshot bursts, sometimes in sinuous lines that snake across the page, Santee Frazier crafts poems that are edgy and restless. The poems in Dark Thirty, Frazier’s debut collection, address subjects that are not often thought of as “poetic,” like poverty, alcoholism, cruelty, and homelessness. Frazier’s poems emerge from the darkest corners of experience: “I search the cabinet and icebox—drink the pickle juice / from the jar. Bologna, / hard at the edges, / browning on the kitchen / table since yesterday. / I search the cabinet and icebox—the curdling / milk almost smells drinkable.”
Dark Thirty takes us on a loosely autobiographical trip through Cherokee country, the backwoods towns and the big cities, giving us clear-eyed portraits of Native people surviving contemporary America. In Frazier’s world, there is no romanticizing of Native American life. Here cops knock on the door of a low-rent apartment after a neighbor has been stabbed. Here a poem’s narrator recalls firing a .38 pistol—“barrel glowing like oil in a gutter-puddle”—for the first time. Here a young man catches a Greyhound bus to Flagstaff after his ex-girlfriend tells him he has fathered a child. Yet even in the midst of violence and despair there is time for the beauty of the world to shine through: “The Cutlass rattling out / the last fumes of gas, engine stops, / the night dimly lit by the moon / hung over the treetops; / owls calling each other from / hilltop to valley bend.”
Like viewing photographs that repel us even as they draw us in, we are pulled into these poems. We’re compelled to turn the page and read the next poem. And the next. And each poem rewards us with a world freshly seen and remade for us of sound and image and voice.
Dark Traffic creates landmarks through language, by which its speakers begin to describe traumas in order to survive and move through them. With fine detail and observation, these poems work in some way like poetic weirs: readers of Kane’s work will see the artic and subarctic, but also, more broadly, America, and the exigencies of motherhood, indigenous experience, feminism, and climate crises alongside the near-necropastoral of misogyny, violence, and systemic failures. These contexts catch the voice of the poems’ speakers, and we perceive the currents they create.
Doubters and Dreamers
Janice Gould University of Arizona Press, 2011 Library of Congress PS3557.O862D68 2011 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
Doubters and Dreamers opens with a question from a young girl faced with the spectacle of Indian effigies lynched and burned “in jest” before UC Berkeley’s annual Big Game against Stanford: “What’s a debacle, Mom?” This innocent but telling question marks the girl’s entrée into the complicated knowledge of her heritage as a mixed-blood Native American of Koyangk’auwi (Concow) Maidu descent. The girl is a young Janice Gould, and the poems and narrations that follow constitute a remarkable work of sustained and courageous self-revelation, retracing the precarious emotional terrain of an adolescence shaped by a mother’s tough love and a growing consciousness of an ancestral and familial past.
In the first half of the book, “Tribal History,” Gould ingeniously repurposes the sonnet form to preserve the stories of her mother and aunt, who grew up when “muleback was the customary mode / of transport” and the “spirit world was present”—stories of “old ways” and places claimed in memory but lost in time. Elsewhere, she remembers her mother’s “ferocious, upright anger” and her unexpected tenderness (“Like a miracle, I was still her child”), culminating in the profound expression of loss that is the poem “Our Mother’s Death.”
In the second half of the book, “It Was Raining,” Gould tells of the years of lonely self-making and “unfulfilled dreams” as she comes to terms with what she has been told are her “crazy longings” as a lesbian: “It’s been hammered into me / that I’ll be spurned / by a ‘real woman,’ / the only kind I like.” The writing here commemorates old loves and relationships in language that mingles hope and despair, doubt and devotion, veering at times into dreamlike moments of consciousness. One poem and vignette at a time, Doubters and Dreamers explores what it means to be a mixed-blood Native American who grew up urban, lesbian, and middle class in the West.
Denise K. Lajimodiere Michigan State University Press, 2010 Library of Congress PS3612.A48D73 2010 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
Dragonfly Dance is a collection of poems remarkable for their candor and sense of catharsis. Writing from the vantage point of an American Indian women, Denise Lajimodiere opens a door into the lives of Native girls and women. Her poems often reflect the deep tensions between Native culture and white culture.
Reflected in Lajimodiere's poems, life is sometimes beautiful but rarely easy. "The Necklace," the narrator details how her mother repaired a favorite beaded necklace, "her arthritic fingers patiently / threading beads / on the long thin needle, weaving / night after night." When the necklace is finally repaired, she wears it to school where
At recess a White boy
ran by, yanked
it off my neck and threw it.
I watched as it ascended
high above the blacktop,
the beads glittered, scattering their light,
a rainbow against gray skies.
Unadorned, direct, and often raw, these riveting poems sear their way into our imaginations, inviting us into a world we might never have known. We are richer for the knowledge.
An Eagle Nation
Carter Revard University of Arizona Press, 1993 Library of Congress PS501.S85 vol. 24 | Dewey Decimal 810.8
"We are given this world and some time with friends. How time dawned on mind and was beaded into language amazes me the way an orb-spider's web or a computer-chip does. . . ."
Carter Revard, Osage Indian poet, Rhodes scholar, and professor of medieval English literature, shares both this amazement and his amazing command of language in this first retrospective collection of 40 published and unpublished pieces written from 1970 to 1991.
Earthquake Weather: Poems
Janice Gould University of Arizona Press, 1996 Library of Congress PS501.S85 vol. 33 | Dewey Decimal 810.80054
It’s unmistakable, that strangely calm air and sky that signals big change ahead: earthquake weather. These are familiar signs to Janice Gould, a poet, a lesbian, and a mixed-blood California Indian of Koyangk’auwi Maidu descent. Her sense of isolation is intense, her search for identity is relentless, and her words can take one’s breath away. Sometimes accepting, sometimes full of anger, Gould’s work is rare, filtered through the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of a lesbian of Indian heritage. Over and over again, she speaks as an outsider looking in at the lives of others—through a doorway, out of a car window, or from the shambles of a broken relationship.
Showing a steady courage in the midst of this alienation, her words are also stark testimony to the struggle of an individual caught in social and emotional contexts defined by others. In Earthquake Weather, as in an evolving friendship, Gould opens herself to the reader in stages. "I did not know how lonely I was / till we began to talk," she writes in an opening section, setting the introspective tone of what’s to come. She begins with a focus on those universal truths that both bind us and isolate us from each other: the pain of loss, the finality of death, our longing to see beneath the surface of things. Next, the poet turns to her growing-up years during the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement. She describes a family in turmoil and an Indian heritage that, oddly, was one of the factors that made her feel most disconnected from other people. And she writes poignantly about her increasing alienation from prescribed sexual roles. "What’s wrong with me? / Where do I belong? Why / am I here? Why can’t I / hold on?" Finally, as in a trusting friendship, Gould offers the reader vivid word portraits of relationships in her life—women she has loved and who have loved her.
Erotic and deeply personal, these poems serve as both a reconciliation and affirmation of her individuality. "Yet would you deny / that between women desire exists / that in our friendship a delicate / and erotic strand of fire unites us?" The poems in this book, says critic Toby Langen, are most powerful for their "courageous drawing on experience and feelings." They will speak to many general readers as well as anyone interested in questions of gender and identity, including students of literature, lesbian/women’s studies, social/cultural studies, or American Indian studies.
Electa Quinney loved to learn. Growing up in the early 1800s in New York, she went to some of the best boarding schools. There she learned how to read, write, and solve tough math problems—she even learned how to do needlework. Electa decided early on that she wanted to become a teacher so she could pass her knowledge on to others.
But life wasn’t simple. Electa was a Stockbridge Indian, and her tribe was being pressured by the government and white settlers to move out of the state. So in 1828, Electa and others in her tribe moved to Wisconsin. Almost as soon as she arrived, Electa got to work again, teaching in a log building that also served as the local church. In that small school in the woods, Electa became Wisconsin’s very first public school teacher, educating the children of Stockbridge-Munsee Band of the Mohican Indians as well as the sons and daughters of nearby white settlers and missionaries.
Electa’s life provides a detailed window onto pioneer Wisconsin and discusses the challenges and issues faced by American Indians in the nineteenth century. Through it all, Electa’s love of learning stands out, and her legacy as Wisconsin’s first public school teacher makes her an inspiration to students of today.
The Feathered Heart
Mark Turcotte Michigan State University Press, 1998 Library of Congress PS3570.U627F4 1998 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
This revised and expanded edition of The Feathered Heart, Mark Turcotte's celebrated collection of Native American poetry, brings traditional oral culture to print. Torn, painful, vibrant, and full of hope, his poetry weaves together the multilayered and textured fabric of contemporary Native American urban and rural existence. Appropriately, each poem in The Feathered Heart possesses a deeply lyrical quality. Raw emotion echoes in Turcotte's voice, in his verse, in the things he sees. "Ten Thousand Thousand Bones," for example, "a poem about the desecration of Native American burial sites and objects by archeologists," is dedicated "to an ancient woman taken from the Earth near New Lenox, Illinois in the winter 1993/94."
Follow the Blackbirds
Poems by Gwen Nell Westerman Michigan State University Press, 2013 Library of Congress PS3623.E84767F65 2013 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
In language as perceptive as it is poignant, poet Gwen Nell Westerman builds a world in words that reflects the past, present, and future of the Dakota people. An intricate balance between the singularity of personal experience and the unity of collective longing, Follow the Blackbirds speaks to the affection and appreciation a contemporary poet feels for her family, community, and environment. With touches of humor and the occasional sharp cultural criticism, the voice that emerges from these poems is that of a Dakota woman rooted in her world and her words. In this moving collection, Westerman reflects on history and family from a unique perspective, one that connects the painful past and the hard-fought future of her Dakota homeland. Grounded in vivid story and memory, Westerman draws on both English and the Dakota language to celebrate the long journey along sunflower-lined highways of the tallgrass prairies of the Great Plains that returns her to a place filled with “more than history.” An intense homage to the power of place, this book tells a masterful story of cultural survival and the power of language.
from Sand Creek
Simon J. Ortiz University of Arizona Press, 1999 Library of Congress PS501.S85 vol. 42 | Dewey Decimal 810.80054
The massacre of Cheyenne and Arapaho women and children by U.S. soldiers at Sand Creek in 1864 was a shameful episode in American history, and its battlefield was proposed as a National Historic Site in 1998 to pay homage to those innocent victims. Poet Simon Ortiz had honored those people seventeen years earlier in his own way. That book, from Sand Creek, is now back in print.
Originally published in a small-press edition, from Sand Creek makes a large statement about injustices done to Native peoples in the name of Manifest Destiny. It also makes poignant reference to the spread of that ambition in other parts of the world—notably in Vietnam—as Ortiz asks himself what it is to be an American, a U.S. citizen, and an Indian. Indian people have often felt they have had no part in history, Ortiz observes, and through his work he shows how they can come to terms with this feeling. He invites Indian people to examine the process they have experienced as victims, subjects, and expendable resources—and asks people of European heritage to consider the motives that drive their own history and create their own form of victimization.
Through the pages of this sobering work, Ortiz offers a new perspective on history and on America. Perhaps more important, he offers a breath of hope that our peoples might learn from each other:
has been a burden
of steel and mad
but, look now,
there are flowers
and new grass
and a spring wind
from Sand Creek.
From the Belly of My Beauty
Esther G. Belin University of Arizona Press, 1999 Library of Congress PS501.S85 vol. 38 | Dewey Decimal 810.80054
If it can be said that Native culture is hidden behind the facade of mainstream America, there is a facet of that culture hidden even to many Native Americans. One of today's generation of outstanding Native writers, Esther Belin is an urban Indian. Raised in the city, she speaks with an entirely different voice from that of her reservation kindred as she expresses herself on subjects of urban alienation, racism, sexism, substance abuse, and cultural estrangement.
In this bold new collection of poems, Belin presents a startling vision of urban California—particularly Los Angeles—contrasted with Navajo life in the Four Corners region. She presents aspects of Diné life and history not normally seen by readers accustomed to accounts written by Navajos brought up on the reservation.
Her work reveals a difference in experience but a similarity in outlook. Belin's poems put familiar cultural forms in a new context, as Coyote "struts down east 14th / feeling good / looking good / feeling the brown." Her character Ruby dramatizes the gritty reality of a Native woman's life ("I laugh / sit / smoke a Virginia Slim / and talk to the spirits"). Her use of Diné language and poignant descriptions of family life will remind some of Joy Harjo's work, but with every turn of the page, readers will know that Belin is making her own mark on Native American literature.
From the Belly of My Beauty is also a ceremony of affirmation and renewal for those Native Americans affected by the Federal Indian Relocation Program of the 1950s and '60s, with its attempts to "assimilate" them into the American mainstream. They have survived by remembering who they were and where they came from. And they have survived so that they might bear witness, as Esther Belin so powerfully does. Belin holds American culture accountable for failing to treat its indigenous peoples with respect, but speaks for the ability of Native culture to survive and provide hope, even for mixed-blood or urban Indians. She is living proof that Native culture thrives wherever its people are found.
The Good Rainbow Road
Simon J. Ortiz; Illustrations by Michael Lacapa University of Arizona Press, 2004 Library of Congress PZ10.5.O67Go 2004
This is the story of two courageous boys and of how they saved their village.
Their village is called Haapaahnitse, Oak Place, and it lies at the foot of a mountain. Once there was a lake and a stream nearby, but they have dried up. Once rain and snow came, but no more. Not only did the crops wither and die, even the hardy oak trees have become brittle sticks. The land has become barren and dry.
Two brothers, Tsaiyah-dzehshi, whose name means First One, and Hamahshu-dzehshi, Next One, are chosen for an important mission. They are sent on a westward trek to the home of the Shiwana, the Rain and Snow Spirits, to ask them to bring the gift of water to the village again. The brothers cross deserts and mountains on an arduous journey until they are finally stopped short by a treacherous canyon filled with molten lava.
The Good Rainbow Road tells how the brothers overcome this last challenge and continue on to their destination. Written in the tradition of Native American oral storytelling and accompanied by colorful illustrations from celebrated Native artist Michael Lacapa, it brings the powers of language, memory, and imagery to a tale that will captivate children ages seven and up.
As Simon Ortiz writes, "The Good Rainbow Road is located in the Native American world, but it is not limited to that world. Even considering humankind's many ethnic and racial differences, we are all part of each other as people and the rest of all Creation, and our stories join us together." This is the foundation of The Good Rainbow Road, and on that road young readers will broaden their understanding of humanity's common bonds.
The Good Rainbow Road is presented in Keres, the language of Acoma Pueblo and six other Pueblo communities in New Mexico, and in English, with an additional Spanish translation in the back of the book.
Horsefly Dress: Poems
Heather Cahoon University of Arizona Press, 2020 Library of Congress PS3603.A37858 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
Horsefly Dress is a meditation on the experience and beauty of suffering, questioning its triggers and ultimate purpose through the lens of historical and contemporary interactions and complications of Séliš, Qĺispé, and Christian beliefs. Heather Cahoon’s collection explores dark truths about the world through first-person experiences, as well as the experiences of her family and larger tribal community. As a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Cahoon crafts poems that recount traditional stories and confront Coyote’s transformation of the world, including his decision to leave certain evils present, such as cruelty, greed, hunger, and death.
By weaving together stories of Cahoon’s family and tribal community with those of Coyote and his family, especially Coyote’s daughter, Horsefly Dress, the interactions and shared experiences show the continued relevance of traditional Séliš and Qĺispé culture to contemporary life. Rich in the imagery of autumnal foliage, migrating birds, and frozen landscapes, Horsefly Dress calls forth the sensory experience of grief and transformation. As the stories and poems reveal, the transformative powers associated with the human experience of loss belong to the past, present, and future, as do the traditional Salish-Pend d’Oreille stories that create the backbone of this intricate collection.
Joan Naviyuk Kane University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013
Winner of the 2012 Donald Hall Prize in Poetry
Selected by Arthur Sze
Hyperboreal originates from diasporas. It attempts to make sense of change and to prepare for cultural, climate, and political turns that are sure to continue. The poems originate from the hope that our lives may be enriched by the expression of and reflection on the cultural strengths inherent to indigenous culture. It concerns King Island, the ancestral home of the author's family until the federal government's Bureau of Indian Affairs forcibly and permanently relocated its residents. The poems work towards the assembly of an identity, both collective and singular, that is capable of looking forward from the recollection and impact of an entire community's relocation to distant and arbitrary urban centers. Through language, Hyperboreal grants forum to issues of displacement, lack of access to traditional lands and resources and loss of family that King Island people—and all Inuit—are contending with.
I The Song
Jill M Soens University of Utah Press, 1999 Library of Congress PM197.E3I2 1999 | Dewey Decimal 897
I, the Song is an introduction to the rich and complex classical North American poetry that grew out of and reflects Indian life before the European invasion. No generalization can hold true for all the classical poems of North American Indians. They spring from thirty thousand years of experience, five hundred languages and dialects, and ten linguistic groups and general cultures. But the poems from these different cultures and languages belong to poetry unified by similar experiences and shared continent.
Built on early transcriptions of Native American “songs” and arranged by subject, these poems are informed by additional context that enables readers to appreciate more fully their imagery, their cultural basis, and the moment that produced them. They let us look at our continent through the eyes of a wide range of people: poets, hunters, farmers, holy men and women, and children. This poetry achieved its vividness, clarity, and intense emotional powers partly because the singers made their poems for active use as well as beauty, and also because they made them for singing or chanting rather than isolated reading.
Most striking, classical North American Indian poetry brings us flashes of timeless vision and absolute perception: a gull’s wing red over the dawn; snow-capped peaks in the moonlight; a death song. Flowing beneath them is a powerful current: the urge to achieve a selfless attention to the universe and a determination to see and delight in the universe on its own terms.
Instruments of the True Measure charts the coordinates and intersections of land, history, and culture. Lyrical passages map the parallel lives of ancestral figures and connect dispossessions of the past to lived experiences of the present. Shawnee history informs the collection, and Da’s fascination with uncovering and recovering brings the reader deeper into the narrative of Shawnee homeland. Images of forced removal and frontier violence reveal the wrenching loss and reconfiguration of the Shawnee as a people. The body and history become lands that are measured and plotted with precise instruments.
Surveying and geography underpin the collection, but even as Da’ investigates these signifiers of measurement, she pushes the reader to interrogate their function within the stark atrocities of American history. Da’ laments this harsh dichotomy, observing that America’s mathematical point of beginning is located in the heart of her tribe’s homeland: “I do not have the Shawnee words to describe this place; the notation that is available to me is 40°38´32.61´´ N 80°31´9.76´´ W.”
The Island of Lost Luggage
Janet McAdams University of Arizona Press, 2000 Library of Congress PS3563.C263I85 2000 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
". . . at the Island of Lost Luggage, they line up:
the disappeared, the lost children, the Earharts
of modern life. It's your bad luck to die in the cold
wars of certain nations. But in the line at Unclaimed
Baggage, no one mourns for the sorry world
that sent them here . . ."
The abused. The oppressed. The terrified victims of institutionalized insanity. Making daring connections between the personal and the political, Janet McAdams draws new lines in the conflict between the new and old worlds as she redefines the struggle to remain human.
This award-winning collection of poetry forges surprising links among seemingly unrelated forms of violence and resistance in today's world: war in Central America, abuses against Nature, the battleground of the bedroom. McAdams evokes the absurdity of everyday existence as she sends out a new call for social responsibility.
The Island of Lost Luggage is the poetry winner of the 1999 First Book Awards competition of the Native Writers' Circle of the Americas.
Itch Like Crazy
Wendy Rose University of Arizona Press, 2002 Library of Congress PS501.S85 vol. 51 | Dewey Decimal 810.8
Among Native American writers of mixed-blood heritage, few have expressed their concerns with personal identity with as much passion as Wendy Rose. A mainstay among American Indian poets whose work addresses these issues, she is a writer with whom readers of diverse ethnic backgrounds have consistently identified.
In her latest work, Rose returns to these major motifs while exploring a new dimension: using poetry as a tool to delve into the buried secrets of family history—and all of American history as well. Confronting questions of personal history that itch like crazy—the irritations that drive human existence—she acknowledges and pays tribute to her Indian and European ancestors without hiding her anger with American society.
Rose's poems are strong political and social statements that have a distinctly narrative flavor. Here are Europeans who first set foot on America's shores while Taino Indians greeted them as if they were visiting neighbors; Hopi and Miwok "Clan Mothers, grand-daughters, all those the missionaries erased"; and European forebears who as settlers pushed their way relentlessly west. Through her vivid imagery, she speaks to and for these ancestors with a sense of loss and an itching caused by the biases provoked by ethnic chauvinism.
Itch Like Crazy is a finely crafted literary work that is also a manifesto addressing contacts and conflicts in the history of Indian-white relations. By presenting another view of U.S. history and its impact on the Native Americans who are her ancestors, it offers a new appreciation of the issue of "tribal identity" that too often faces Native peoples of the Americas—and is too often misunderstood by Euro-American society.
Jennifer Elise Foerster University of Arizona Press, 2013 Library of Congress PS3606.O39L43 2013 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
In her first magical collection of poetry, Jennifer Elise Foerster weaves together a mythic and geographic exploration of a woman’s coming of age in a dislocated time. Leaving Tulsa, a book of road elegies and laments, travels from Oklahoma to the edges of the American continent through landscapes at once stark and lush, ancient and apocalyptic. The imagery that cycles through the poems—fire, shell, highway, wing—gives the collection a rich lyrical-dramatic texture. Each poem builds on a theme of searching for a lost “self”—an “other” America—that crosses biblical, tribal, and ecological mythologies.
In Leaving Tulsa, Foerster is not afraid of the strange or of estrangement. The narrator occupies a space in between and navigates the offbeat experiences of a speaker that is of both Muscogee and European heritage. With bold images and candid language, Foerster challenges the perceptions of what it means to be Native, what it means to be a woman, and what it means to be an American today. Ultimately, these brave and luminous poems engage and shatter the boundaries of time, self, and continent.
Foerster’s journey transcends both geographic space and the confines of the page to live vividly in the mind of the reader.
Keet, a ten-year-old Tlingit Indian boy, stows away for a voyage on his father’s canoe . . . and soon finds himself caught in the middle of a wild seastorm. The story carries him far from his home village, and when he makes land, he winds up right in the middle of a dangerous dispute between two Indian clans. The story of how he copes with these surprises and extricates himself from danger is dramatic and unforgettable.
And it’s mostly true. Roy Peratrovich here builds a wonderful children’s tale on the bones of a story his own grandfather passed down. His accompanying illustrations bring the people and landscapes of Alaska—to say nothing of the adventures!—to stunning life, drawing young readers into a long-gone time when the whims of nature and man could suddenly test a boy’s courage.
Luminaries of the Humble
Elizabeth Woody University of Arizona Press, 1994 Library of Congress PS501.S85 vol. 30 | Dewey Decimal 810.8
This collection of poems by one of the Pacific Northwest's finest poets focuses on the land and people of that region, especially the Plateau Indian tribes and the contemporary issues that affect their lives. Luminaries of the Humble offers images of the Northwest's natural environment, with its rivers and diverse landscapes, while also conveying the author's deep personal insights, experiences, and understanding of the relationship between people and their land. Woody's strength lies in her ability to recognize connections to specific places that also define her relationship to a region. Through her work, non-Native readers can learn to see through popular misinterpretations of Native cultures that are often mistaken for truth.
In opening remarks, Woody shares anecdotes of her youth that contributed to her sense of personal history and her development as a poet. "The petroglyphs on rock in the Columbia River Gorge are part of my literary heritage," she writes. Now through the medium of the printed word, Luminaries of the Humble marks an important continuation of that tradition.
Markings on Earth
Karenne Wood University of Arizona Press, 2001 Library of Congress PS3623.O63M37 2001 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
“Ten thousand years of history, and we find the remains
of ancestors removed from their burial mound . . . “
Impressions of the past, markings on earth, are part of the world of Karenne Wood. A member of the Monacan tribe of Virginia, she writes with insight and grace on topics that both reflect and extend her Native heritage.
Markings on Earth is a cyclical work that explores the many dimensions of human experience, from our interaction with the environment to personal relationships. In these pages we relive the arrival of John Smith in America and visit the burial mounds of the Monacan people, experience the flight of the great blue heron and witness the dance of the spider. We also share the personal journey of one individual who seeks to overcome her sense of alienation from her people and her past.
Wood’s palette is not only Nature but human nature as well. She writes pointedly about shameful episodes of American history, such as the devastation of Appalachia by mining companies and the “disappearance” of Indian peoples. She also addresses forms of everyday violence known to many of us, such as alcoholism and sexual abuse. Wood conveys an acceptance of history and personal trauma, but she finds redemption in a return to tradition and a perception of the world’s natural grace.
Through these elegantly crafted words, we come to know that Native writers need not be limited to categorical roles determined by their heritage. Markings on Earth displays a fidelity to human experience, evoking that experience through poems honed to perfection. It is an affirmation of survival, a work that suggests one person’s life cannot be separated from the larger story of its community, its rootedness in history, and its timeless connections to the world.
Milk Black Carbon works against the narratives of dispossession and survival that mark the contemporary experience of many indigenous people, and Inuit in particular. In this collection, autobiographical details – motherhood, marriage, extended family and its geographical context in the rapidly changing arctic – negotiate arbitrary landscapes of our perplexing frontiers through fragmentation and interpretation of conventional lyric expectations.
Margo Tamez University of Arizona Press, 2003 Library of Congress PS3570.A446N35 2003 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
Come, step outside your human skin for just a little while.
Margo Tamez’s voice is that of the cicada and the cricket, the raven and the crane. In this volume of poetry, she shows us that the earth is an erotic current linking all beings, a vibrant network of birth, death, and rebirth. A sacred intertwining from which we as humans have become disconnected. Tamez shares the perspective of other creatures in images that remind us of Nature's beauty and fragility. An invocation of birds: “Sudden hum / wings touching / wings in swift turn / hush / a fast red out of the flux.” An appreciation for the delicacy of insects, for spiderwebs “like a hundred needle-thin tubes of blown glass.”
Here too are reflections on childbirth and children—and on miscarriage, when damage inflicted on the environment by herbicides comes back to haunt all of us in our skin and bones, our very wombs. Warning of “the chemical cocktail seeping into the air ducts,” she brings the voice of someone who has experienced firsthand what happens when our land and water are compromised. For Tamez, earth, food, and family are the essentials of life, and we ignore them at our own peril. “If a person / does not admit the peril . . . that becomes a dangerous / form of existence.”
Written with the wisdom of one who knows and loves the land, her lyrical meditations speak to the naked wanting in us all.
Native People of Wisconsin
Patty Loew Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2003 Library of Congress E78.W8L65 2003 | Dewey Decimal 977.500497
The revised edition ofPatty Loew'sNative People of Wisconsinis now available, ISBN 9780870207488.Native People of Wisconsin, the fifth text in the New Badger History series for upper elementary and middle school students, focuses on the Indian Nations in the state: the Menominee, Ho-Chunk, Ojibwe, Oneida, Mohican Nation, Stockbridge-Munsee Band, and the Brothertown Indians. Patty Loew has followed the same structure she used in Indian Nations of Wisconsin, her book for general audiences, in which she provided chapters on Early History and European Arrivals, then devoted the remaining chapters to each of the Indian Nations in Wisconsin today.
An essential title for the upper elementary classroom, Native People of Wisconsin fills the need for accurate and authentic teaching materials about Wisconsin’s Indian Nations. Based on her research for her award-winning title for adults, Indian Nations of Wisconsin: Histories of Endurance and Survival, author Patty Loew has tailored this book specifically for young readers.
Native People of Wisconsin tells the stories of the twelve Native Nations in Wisconsin, including the history of the First People in Wisconsin and the impact of European arrivals on Native culture. Young readers will become familiar with the unique cultural traditions, tribal history, and life today for each nation.
Complete with maps, illustrations, and a detailed glossary of terms, this highly anticipated new edition includes two new chapters on the Brothertown Indian Nation and Urban Indians, as well as updates on each tribe’s current history and new profiles of outstanding young people from every nation.
"So many of the children in this classroom are Ho-Chunk, and it brings history alive to them and makes it clear to the rest of us too that this isn't just...Natives riding on horseback. There are still Natives in our society today, and we're working together and living side by side. So we need to learn about their ways as well." --Amy Laundrie, former Lake Delton Elementary School fourth grade teacher
An essential title for the upper elementary classroom, "Native People of Wisconsin" fills the need for accurate and authentic teaching materials about Wisconsin's Indian Nations. Based on her research for her award-winning title for adults, "Indian Nations of Wisconsin: Histories of Endurance and Survival," author Patty Loew has tailored this book specifically for young readers.
"Native People of Wisconsin" tells the stories of the twelve Native Nations in Wisconsin, including the Native people's incredible resilience despite rapid change and the impact of European arrivals on Native culture. Young readers will become familiar with the unique cultural traditions, tribal history, and life today for each nation.
Complete with maps, illustrations, and a detailed glossary of terms, this highly anticipated new edition includes two new chapters on the Brothertown Indian Nation and urban Indians, as well as updates on each tribe's current history and new profiles of outstanding young people from every nation.
The annual seasons and rhythms of the desert are a dance of clouds, wind, rain, and flood—water in it roles from bringer of food to destroyer of life. The critical importance of weather and climate to native desert peoples is reflected with grace and power in this personal collection of poems, the first written creative work by an individual in O'odham and a landmark in Native American literature.
Poet Ofelia Zepeda centers these poems on her own experiences growing up in a Tohono O'odham family, where desert climate profoundly influenced daily life, and on her perceptions as a contemporary Tohono O'odham woman. One section of poems deals with contemporary life, personal history, and the meeting of old and new ways. Another section deals with winter and human responses to light and air. The final group of poems focuses on the nature of women, the ocean, and the way the past relationship of the O'odham with the ocean may still inform present day experience. These fine poems will give the outside reader a rich insight into the daily life of the Tohono O'odham people.
Of Cartography: Poems
Esther G. Belin University of Arizona Press, 2017 Library of Congress PS3552.E479627O35 2017 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
One of our generation’s most important literary voices, Esther G. Belin was raised in the Los Angeles area as part of the legacy following the federally run Indian relocation policy. Her parents completed the Special Navajo Five-Year Program that operated from 1946 to 1961 at Sherman Institute in Riverside, California. Drawing from this experience, her poetry, activism, and multimedia work speaks to larger issues of urban Indian identity, acceptance, adaptation, and cultural estrangement.
In this long-anticipated collection, Belin daringly maps the poetics of womanhood, the body, institution, family, and love. Depicting the personal and the political, Of Cartography is an exploration of identity through language. With poems ranging from prose to typographic and linguistic illustrations, this distinctive collection pushes the boundaries of traditional poetic form.
Marking territory and position according to the Diné cardinal points, Of Cartography demands much from the reader, gives meaning to abstraction, and demonstrates the challenges of identity politics.
Our Bearings: Poems
Molly McGlennen; Foreword by Ben Burgess University of Arizona Press, 2020 Library of Congress PS3613.C4838O87 2020 | Dewey Decimal 813.6
Our Bearings is a collection of narrative poetry that examines and celebrates Anishinaabe life in modern Minneapolis. Crafted around the four elements—earth, air, water, and fire— the poems are a beautifully layered discourse between landscapes, stories, and the people who inhabit them. Throughout the collection, McGlennen weaves the natural elements of Minnesota with rich historical commentary and current images of urban Native life. Reverence for wildlife and foliage is pierced by the sharp man-made skylines of Minneapolis while McGlennen reckons with the heavy impact of industrial progress on the souls and everyday lives of individuals.
While working with both traditional and contemporary form, McGlennen’s unique use of space and rhythm creates poetry that is both captivating and accessible. Our Bearings does not attempt to speak for a population; rather it offers vibrant stories and moments that give voice to pieces of a large and complex tapestry of experiences. Through keen observation and a deep understanding of Native life in Minneapolis, McGlennen has created a timely collection that contributes beautifully to the important conversation about contemporary urban Native life in North America and globally.
Out There Somewhere
Simon J. Ortiz University of Arizona Press, 2002 Library of Congress PS501.S85 vol. 49 | Dewey Decimal 810.8
He has been out there somewhere for a while now, a poet at large in America.
Simon Ortiz, one of our finest living poets, has been a witness, participant, and observer of interactions between the Euro-American cultural world and that of his Native American people for many years. In this collection of haunting new work, he confronts moments and instances of his personal past—and finds redemption in the wellspring of his culture.
A writer known for deeply personal poetry, Ortiz has produced perhaps his most personal work to date. In a collage of journal entries, free-verse poems, and renderings of poems in the Acoma language, he draws on life experiences over the past ten years—recalling time spent in academic conferences and writers' colonies, jails and detox centers—to convey something of the personal and cultural history of dislocation. As an American Indian artist living at times on the margins of mainstream culture, Ortiz has much to tell about the trials of alcoholism, poverty, displacement. But in the telling he affirms the strength of Native culture even under the most adverse conditions and confirms the sustaining power of Native beliefs and connections: "With our hands, we know the sacred earth. / With our spirits, we know the sacred sky."
Like many of his fellow Native Americans, Ortiz has been "out there somewhere"—Portland and San Francisco, Freiburg, Germany, and Martinique—away from his original homeland, culture, and community. Yet, as these works show, he continues to be absolutely connected socially and culturally to Native identity: "We insist that we as human cultural beings must always have this connection," he writes, "because it is the way we maintain a Native sense of existence." Drawing on this storehouse of places, times, and events, Out There Somewhere is a rich fusion taking readers into the heart and soul of one of today's most exciting and original American poets.
Taking up Lisa Brooks’s notion of “spinning the binary” between oral and literary forms and Christopher Teuton’s explication of the graphic mode, this book examines the uses
that a range of Anishinaabe authors make of art and artists. Arguing that the mark on a surface—whether it be an ancient pictograph or a contemporary painting—intervenes, in the works under scrutiny, in such artificial divisions as precolonial/oral and postcontact/alphabetically literate societies, the text examines the ways Anishinaabe authors establish frameworks for continuity, resistance, and sovereignty in that “space” where conventional narratives of settlement read rupture. This book is a significant contribution to studies of the ways traditional forms of inscription support and amplify the oral tradition and in turn how both the method and aesthetic of inscription contribute to contemporary literary aesthetics and the politics of representation.
In this sixth collection of stories and verse, award-winning writer Luci Tapahonso finds sacredness in everyday life. Viewing a sunset in a desert sky, listening to her granddaughter recount how she spent her day, or visiting her mother after her father's passing, she finds traces of her own memories, along with echoes of the voices of her Navajo ancestors.
These engaging words draw us into a workaday world that, magically but never surprisingly, has room for the Diyin Dine’é (the Holy People), Old Salt Woman, and Dawn Boy. When she describes her grandson’s First Laugh Ceremony—explaining that it was originally performed for White Shell Girl, who grew up to be Changing Woman—her account enriches us and we long to hear more. Tapahonso weaves the Navajo language into her work like she weaves “the first four rows of black yarn” into a rug she is making “for my little grandson, who inherited my father’s name: Hastiin Tsétah Naaki Bísóí.”
As readers, we find that we too are surrounded by silent comfort, held lovingly in the confident hands of an accomplished writer who has a great deal to tell us about life.
Rainbows of Stone
Ralph Salisbury University of Arizona Press, 2000 Library of Congress PS501.S85 vol. 43 | Dewey Decimal 810.80054
Son of a Cherokee-English father and an Irish mother, Ralph Salisbury grew up among storytellers and has shared his family's tales and experiences in seven previous books of prose and poetry. Now in Rainbows of Stone he returns with a striking collection of poems that interweaves family tales with personal and tribal history.
Salisbury conjures images that define his life, from the vanishing farming and hunting traditions with which he was raised to his experiences in World War II as a member of a bomber crew. He writes of himself and of Indian people as Vanishing Americans—vanishing into the mingling of races—and sees himself as a pacifistic patriot concerned that we not continue the destructive reliance on war that marks our history.
Writing as one who is "not part Indian, part white, but wholly both," Salisbury has produced a haunting, powerful work that expresses his devotion to the Cherokee religion, its fidelity to its forebears, and its harmony with the forces of Nature. For all concerned with ecology, social justice, and peace, Rainbows of Stone conveys a growing awareness of the world and a sense of how each individual connects with the universal and timeless realities of every other human being.
Margo Tamez University of Arizona Press, 2007 Library of Congress PS3570.A446R38 2007 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
Written from thirteen years of journals, psychic and earthly, this poetry maps an uprising of a borderland indigenous woman battling forces of racism and sexual violence against Native women and children. This lyric collection breaks new ground, skillfully revealing an unseen narrative of resistance on the Mexico–U.S. border. A powerful blend of the oral and long poem, and speaking into the realm of global movements, these poems explore environmental injustice, sexualized violence, and indigenous women’s lives.
These complex and necessary themes are at the heart of award-winning poet Margo Tamez’s second book of poetry. Her poems bring forth experiences of a raced and gendered life along the border. Tamez engages the experiences of an indigenous life, refusing labels of Mexican or Native American as social constructs of a colonized people. This book is a challenging cartography of colonialism, poverty, and issues of Native identity and demonstrates these as threats to the environment, both ecological and social, in the borderlands. Each poem is crafted as if it were a minute prayer, dense with compassion and unerring optimism.
But the hope that Tamez serves is not blind. In poem after poem, she draws us into a space ruled by mythic symbolism and the ebb and flow of the landscape—a place where comfort is compromised and where we must work to relearn the nature of existence and the value of life.
This eagerly anticipated follow-up to the breakout memoir How to Be an Indian in the 21st Century delves more deeply into the themes of family, community, grief, and the struggle to make a place in the world when your very identity is considered suspect. In Rebel Poet: More Stories from a 21st Century Indian, author Louis Clark examines the effects of his mother's alcoholism and his young sister's death, offers an intimate recounting of the backlash he faced as an Indian on the job, and celebrates the hard-fought sense of home he and his wife have created. Rebel Poet continues the author's tradition of seamlessly mixing poetry and prose, and is at turns darker and more nuanced than its predecessor.
Redoubted: Poems by
R. Vincent Moniz Jr. Michigan State University Press, 2018 Library of Congress PS3613.O5279
R. Vincent Moniz, Jr., records the life and times of a mostly uneducated, economically disadvantaged, literary award-winning urban Indian. Much of his work reflects the people and stories from a neighborhood with the moniker Cockroach while simultaneously depicting contemporary issues of Native America. Poems in this collection are filled with a dreaded fire of wit and cynicism given to him by the Oglala and NuuÉtaare peoples who helped to raise him. With a great deal of bathos, he glides and slides seamlessly from silly to sorrow without effort. His formidable verse irradiates and acknowledges the lives of an in-between people who are too urban for the reservation and too indigenous for American culture, while he himself navigates multitudes, including his place within nerd/pop culture, which widens the scope of his writing. This collection mirrors a subculture that is being either hustled or altogether overlooked, and does so honestly without filter or worry. Moniz’s poetic genetics are a blend of orators that came before him and a new wave of emerging Indigenous American voices. The reader can see these narratives twist and turn to the heartbeat he writes them in.
The Secret Powers of Naming
Sara Littlecrow-Russell; Introduction by Joy Harjo University of Arizona Press, 2006 Library of Congress PS3612.I877S43 2006 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
Sara Littlecrow-Russell’s style emerges from the ancient and sacred tradition of storytelling, where legends were told not just to entertain, but to teach and, if necessary, to discipline. The power of the storyteller is the power of naming, to establish a relationship, a connection, and a sense of meaning. A name is both a bequest and a burden. Each of the poems in this collection is, in essence, a naming ritual. Sharply, energetically, and always provocatively, these poems name uncomfortable moments, complex emotions, and sudden, often wryly humorous realizations.
As Littlecrow-Russell explores how names imposed by outsiders both collide and merge with the identities that Natives create for themselves, these poems decisively counter the images of Indians as colorful dancers, stoic saints, and defeated warriors. These verses are not constructed of beautiful images, nor are they stories of redemption. Instead, Littlecrow-Russell offers stark and honest witness to urban and reservation life at the beginning of the twenty-first century. In short snaps of honed lyric and voice, she tackles topics ranging from family, love, and spirituality, to welfare, addiction, and the thorny politics of tribal identity. Her work displays tremendous bitterness and anger, but there is also dignity, humor, and plenty of irony.
Candid and compelling, this collection brings fluent verse and human face to the commonly misrepresented experiences of Native Americans.
"My house is the red earth; it could be the center of the world."
This is Navajo country, a land of mysterious and delicate beauty. "Stephen Strom's photographs lead you to that place," writes Joy Harjo. "The camera eye becomes a space you can move through into the powerful landscapes that he photographs. The horizon may shift and change all around you, but underneath it is the heart with which we move." Harjo's prose poems accompany these images, interpreting each photograph as a story that evokes the spirit of the Earth. Images and words harmonize to evoke the mysteries of what the Navajo call the center of the world.
The first book of its kind, Self-Determined Stories: The Indigenous Reinvention of Young Adult Literature reads Indigenous-authored YA—from school stories to speculative fiction— not only as a vital challenge to stereotypes but also as a rich intellectual resource for theorizing Indigenous sovereignty in the contemporary era. Building on scholarship from Indigenous studies, children’s literature, and cultural studies, Suhr-Sytsma delves deep in close readings of works by Sherman Alexie, Jeannette Armstrong, Joseph Bruchac, Drew Hayden Taylor, Susan Power, Cynthia Leitich Smith, and Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel. Together, Suhr-Sytsma contends, these works constitute a unique Indigenous YA genre. This genre radically revises typical YA conventions while offering a fresh portrayal of Indigenous self-determination and a fresh critique of multiculturalism, heteropatriarchy, and hybridity. This literature, moreover, imagines compelling alternative ways to navigate cultural dynamism, intersectionality, and alliance-formation. Self-Determined Stories invites readers from a range of contexts to engage with Indigenous YA and convincingly demonstrates the centrality of Indigenous stories, Indigenous knowledge, and Indigenous people to the flourishing of everyone in every place.
The Shadow’s Horse
Diane Glancy University of Arizona Press, 2003 Library of Congress PS3557.L294S53 2003 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
There is a saying in Native American tradition that "wholeness is when the shadow of the rider and his horse are one." Although we usually focus our attention on what seems most real, Diane Glancy shows us that the shadow of our past has substance as well.
The Shadow's Horse is a new collection of poems in which Glancy walks the margin between her white and Indian heritage. In poems that conjure the persistence of fallen leaves or juxtapose images of Christ and the stockyards, she powerfully evokes place and spirit to address with intelligence and beauty issues of family, work, and faith.
In some of these poems Glancy recalls growing up with her Cherokee father, who worked in a stockyard, radically applying Christian theology to the slaughter of non-human creatures: The cattle go up the ramp
dragging their crosses.
Their voices are Gregorian chants
rising to the blue sky,
the cold clouds.
In others she examines the walk of history through the ordinary details of life-history seen from two points of view, early Euro-American and contemporary Native American. She sees her Native heritage as shortlived and fragile, yet as enduring as leaves, and she asks, "If you line up all the leaves that fall / how many times will they go around the earth?"
Writing in a cross-boundaried, fragmented voice—a voice based on the memory of the way language sounded when it was stretched across the cultures or walked in both worlds—Glancy has fashioned a book about speaking oneself into existence. The Shadow's Horse is the story of one culture made to sing the song of another until the Native voice is so erased it is nearly an illusion. Yet as readers of these poems will discover, the shadow of the past is as real as the horse it rides.
Sherwin Bitsui University of Arizona Press, 2003 Library of Congress PS501.S85 vol. 52 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
"Fourteen ninety-something, / something happened / and no one can pick it out of the lineup . . . "
In words drawn from urban and Navajo perspectives, Sherwin Bitsui articulates the challenge a Native American person faces in reconciling his or her inherited history of lore and spirit with the coldness of postmodern civilization.
Shapeshift is a collection of startling new poetry that explores the tensions between the worlds of nature and man. Through brief, imagistic poems interspersed with evocative longer narratives, it offers powerful perceptions of American culture and politics and their lack of spiritual grounding. Linking story, history, and voice, Shapeshift is laced with interweaving images—the gravitational pull of a fishbowl, the scent of burning hair, the trickle of motor oil from a harpooned log—that speak to the rich diversity of contemporary Diné writing.
"Tonight, I draw a raven's wing inside a circle
measured a half second
before it expands into a hand.
I wrap its worn grip over our feet
As we thrash against pine needles inside the earthen pot."
With complexities of tone that shift between disconnectedness and wholeness, irony and sincerity, Bitsui demonstrates a balance of excitement and intellect rarely found in a debut volume. As deft as it is daring, Shapeshift teases the mind and stirs the imagination.
Here's the myth: Native Americans are people of great spiritual depth, in touch with the rhythms of the earth, rhythms that they celebrate through drumming and dancing. They love the great outdoors and are completely in tune with the natural world. They can predict the weather by glancing at the sky, or hearing a crow cry, or somehow. Who knows exactly how? The point of the myth is that Indians are, well, special. Different from white people, but in a good way.
The four young male Native American poets whose work is brought together in this startling collection would probably raise high their middle fingers in salute to this myth. These guys and "guys" they are—don't buy into the myth. Their poems aren't about hunting and fishing or bonding with animal spirits. Their poems are about urban decay and homelessness, about loneliness and despair, about Payday Loans and 40-ounce beers, about getting enough to eat and too much to drink. And there is nothing romantic about their poetry, either. It is written in the vernacular of mean streets: often raw and coarse and vulgar, just like the lives it describes. Sure, they write about life on the reservation. However, for the Indians in their poems, life on the reservation is a lot like life in the city, but without the traffic. These poets are sick to death of the myth. You can feel it in their poems.
These poets are bound by a common attitude as well as a common heritage. All four—Joel Waters, Steve Pacheco, Luke Warm Water, and Trevino L. Brings Plenty—are Sioux, and all four identify themselves as "Skins" (as in "Redskins"). In their poems, they grapple with their heritage, wrestling with what it means to be a Sioux and a Skin today. It's a fight to the finish.
Editor and poet Allison Adelle Hedge Coke assembles this multilingual collection of Indigenous American poetry, joining voices old and new in songs of witness and reclamation. Unprecedented in scope, Sing gathers more than eighty poets from across the Americas, covering territory that stretches from Alaska to Chile, and features familiar names like Sherwin Bitsui, Louise Erdrich, Joy Harjo, Lee Maracle, and Simon Ortiz alongside international poets—both emerging and acclaimed—from regions underrepresented in anthologies.
They write from disparate zones and parallel experience, from lands of mounded earthwork long-since paved, from lands of ancient ball courts and the first great cities on the continents, from places of cold, from places of volcanic loam, from zones of erased history and ongoing armed conflict, where “postcolonial” is not an academic concept but a lived reality. As befits a volume of such geographical inclusivity, many poems here appear in multiple languages, translated by fellow poets and writers like Juan Felipe Herrera and Cristina Eisenberg.
Hedge Coke’s thematic organization of the poems gives them an added resonance and continuity, and readers will appreciate the story of the genesis of this project related in Hedge Coke’s deeply felt introduction, which details her experiences as an invited performer at several international poetry festivals. Sing is a journey compelled by the exploration of kinship and the desire for songs that open “pathways of return.”
In this cycle of poetry and stories, Navajo writer Luci Tapahonso shares memories of her home in Shiprock, New Mexico, and of the places and people there. Through these celebrations of birth, partings, and reunions, this gifted writer displays both her love of the Navajo world and her resonant use of language. Blending memoir and fiction in the storytelling style common to many Indian traditions, Tapahonso's writing shows that life and death are intertwined, and that the Navajo people live with the knowledge that identity is formed by knowing about the people to whom one belongs. The use of both English and Navajo in her work creates an interplay that may also give readers a new way of understanding their connectedness to their own inner lives and to other people.
Luci Tapahonso shows how the details of everyday life—whether the tragedy of losing a loved one or the joy of raising children, or simply drinking coffee with her uncle—bear evidence of cultural endurance and continuity. Through her work, readers may come to better appreciate the different perceptions that come from women's lives.
Laura Da' University of Arizona Press, 2015 Library of Congress PS501.S85 vol. 78 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
In Tributaries, poet Laura Da’ lyrically surveys Shawnee history alongside personal identity and memory. With the eye of a storyteller, Da’ creates an arc that flows from the personal to the historical and back again. In her first book-length collection, Da’ employs interwoven narratives and perspectives, examines cultural archetypes and historical documents, and weaves rich images to create a shifting vision of the past and present.
Precise images open to piercing meditations of Shawnee history. In the present, a woman watches the approximation of a scalping at a theatrical presentation. Da’ writes, “Soak a toupee with cherry Kool-Aid and mineral oil. / Crack the egg onto the actor’s head. / Red matter will slide down the crown / and egg shell will mimic shards of skull.” This vivid image is paired with a description of the traditional removal path of her own Shawnee ancestors through small towns in Ohio.
These poems range from the Midwestern landscapes of Ohio and Oklahoma to the Pacific Northwest, and the importance of place is apparent. Tributaries simultaneously offers us an extended narrative rumination on the impact of Indian policy and speaks to the contemporary experiences of parenthood and the role of education in passing knowledge from one generation to the next. This collection is composed of four sections that come together to create an important new telling of Shawnee past and present.
Tropical Lung is a collection of writings and drawings from and to a new homeland, a vision of Panamá and the Tecumseh Republic where technology is necessary for understanding the ancient, then is erased and transcended by an ever-present electronic circle. Roberto Harrison combines poetry and visual art in this surrealist vision of a world both historical and reborn, where the futuristic links to the ancient. Harrison looks to symbolic beginnings, spaces of light and mystery that counter disassociation with explorations of the foundational structures of personhood.
Tropical Lung shows how apocalypses can give us the keys to new futures and how aloneness and silence can lead us to live multidimensionally, beyond the boundaries of time and space. The screen makes itself known and offers a means of kinship, but it is also removed by song and born in the red of encounter and the dark of seven pupils. These wild visions coalesce into a fantastic vision of a future both technological and communal.
To visitors it is Canyon de Chelly, a scenic wonder of the Southwest whose vistas reward travelers willing to venture off the beaten track. But to the Diné, it is Tséyi', "the place deep in the rock," a site that many have long called home. Now from deep in the heart of the Diné homeland comes an extraordinary book, a sensitive merging of words and images that reflects the sublime spirit of Canyon de Chelly.
Diné poet Laura Tohe draws deeply on her heritage to create lyrical writings that are rooted in the canyon but universal in spirit, while photographer Stephen Strom captures images that reveal the very soul of this ancient place. Tohe’s words take readers on a journey from the canyon rim down sheer sandstone walls to its rich bottomlands; from the memory of Kit Carson’s rifle shots and the forced march of the Navajo people to the longings of modern lovers. Her poems view the land through Diné eyes, blending history, tradition, and personal reflection while remaining grounded in Strom’s delicate yet striking images. These photographs are not typical of most southwestern landscapes. Strom’s eye for the subtleties and mysticism of the canyon creates powerful images that linger in the mind long after the pages are turned, compelling us to look at the earth in new ways.
Tséyi' / Deep in the Rock is a unique evocation of Canyon de Chelly and the people whose lives and spirits are connected to it. It is a collaboration that conjures the power of stories and images, inviting us to enter a world of harmony and be touched by its singularly haunting beauty.
Weaving the Boundary
Karenne Wood University of Arizona Press, 2016 Library of Congress PS3623.O63A6 2016 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
Evocative, haunting, and ultimately hopeful, Karenne Wood’s Weaving the Boundary explores personal and collective memories and contemporary American Indian realities through lenses of human loss, desire, violence, and love.
This focused, accessible collection carries readers into a deep and intimate understanding of the natural world, the power of language, and the interconnectedness of life. Untold stories are revealed through documented events in various tribal histories, and indictments of destructive encounters between Western colonialism and Native peoples are juxtaposed with a lyric voice that gently insists on reweaving the past, honoring women and all life, creating a sovereign space for indigenous experience. Wood writes, “Nothing was discovered. Everything was already loved.”
Political yet universal, Weaving the Boundary tells of love and betrayal, loss and forgiveness. Wood intertwines important and otherwise untold stories and histories with a heightened sense of awareness of Native peoples’ issues and present realities.
Moving from elegy to evocations of hope and desire, the poems call for respect toward Mother Earth and feminine sensibility. One hears in this collection a longing to be carried deeper into the world, to return to tradition, to nature, to truth, to an innate belonging in the “weaving” of all life.
When it was first released in 1982, When It Rains was one of the earliest published literary works in the O’odham language. Speakers from across generations shared poems that showcased the aesthetic of the written word and aimed to spread interest in reading and writing in O’odham.
The poems capture brief moments of beauty, the loving bond between family members, and a deep appreciation of Tohono O’odham culture and traditions, as well as reverent feelings about the landscape and wildlife native to the Southwest. A motif of rain and water is woven throughout the poetry in When It Rains, tying in the collection’s title to the importance of this life-giving and sustaining resource to the Tohono O’odham people. With the poems in both O’odham and English, the volume serves as an important reminder of the beauty and changeability of the O’odham language.
The themes and experiences expressed by the language educators in this volume capture still-rural community life: children are still bussed for miles to school, and parents still have hours-long daily commutes to work. The Sonoran Desert also remains an important part of daily life—seasons, rain on desert plants, and sacred mountains serve as important markers.
In a new foreword to the volume, Sun Tracks editor Ofelia Zepeda reflects on how meaningful this volume was when it was first published and its continued importance. “Things have changed but many things remain the same,” writes Zepeda. “The pieces in this collection will be meaningful to many still.”
Where Clouds Are Formed
Ofelia Zepeda University of Arizona Press, 2008 Library of Congress PS3576.E64W47 2008 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
Ofelia Zepeda is a Native American poet who possesses a kind of double vision. She sees the contemporary world through her own highly observant eyes and, at the same time, through the eyes of her Tohono O’odham ancestors. Seeing this way infuses her poetry with a resonance and depth that makes it a delight to read—and re-read.
Zepeda is as clear-eyed about the past as she is about the present. She recalls waiting for the school bus on a cold morning inside her father’s truck, listening to the sounds of the engine, the windshield wipers, and the “soft rain on the hood.” She remembers celebrating Mass on the “cold dirt floor of the Winter Solstice.” In the present, she sees both the frustration and the humor in a woman she observes trying to eat pancakes with one hand while her other resides in a cast: “Watching her, I realize eating pancakes is a two-handed job.”
Whatever she sees, she filters through her second set of eyes, which keep the past always present. She tells of traveling to Waw Giwulig, the most sacred mountain of the Tohono O’odham, to ask for blessings—and forgiveness. She writes that one should always bring music to the mountains, “so they are generous with the summer rains.” And, still, “the scent of burning wood / holds the strongest memory. / Mesquite, cedar, piñon, juniper, . . . / we catch the scent of burning wood; / we are brought home.” It is a joy to see the world afresh through her eyes.
Simon J. Ortiz University of Arizona Press, 1992 Library of Congress PS501.S85 vol. 21 | Dewey Decimal 810.8
"What I do as a writer, teacher, and storyteller is to demystify language," says Simon Ortiz. Widely regarded as one of the country's most important Native American poets, Ortiz has led a thirty-year career marked by a fascination with language—and by a love of his people. This omnibus of three previous works offers old and new readers an appreciation of the fruits of his dedication.
Going for the Rain (1976) expresses closeness to a specific Native American way of life and its philosophy and is structured in the narrative form of a journey on the road of life. A Good Journey (1977), an evocation of Ortiz's constant awareness of his heritage, draws on the oral tradition of his Pueblo culture. Fight Back: For the Sake of the People, For the Sake of the Land (1980)—revised for this volume—has its origins in his work as a laborer in the uranium industry and is intended as a political observation and statement about that industry's effects on Native American lands and lives.
In an introduction written for this volume, Ortiz tells of his boyhood in Acoma Pueblo, his early love for language, his education, and his exposure to the wider world. He traces his development as a writer, recalling his attraction to the Beats and his growing political awareness, especially a consciousness of his and other people's social struggle.
"Native American writers must have an individual and communally unified commitment to their art and its relationship to their indigenous culture and people," writes Ortiz. "Through our poetry, prose, and other written works that evoke love, respect, and responsibility, Native Americans may be able to help the United States of America to go beyond survival."