Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Gerald Vizenor is 2011 American Book Award Recipient

From UMN Today, article by Carolyn Gonzales

Uni­ver­sity of New Mex­ico Dis­tin­guished Pro­fes­sor of Amer­i­can Stud­ies Ger­ald Vizenor is the recip­i­ent of the 2011 Amer­i­can Book Award for Shrouds of White Earth. The award is pre­sented by the Before Colum­bus Foun­da­tion. The book is about con­tem­po­rary Native Amer­i­can Indian artist Dogroy Beaulieu, who reveals his story to a native writer.

Dogroy is a painter by nature, an intu­itive vision­ary artist. He cre­ates shrouds of sac­ri­ficed and cru­ci­fied ani­mals and birds, the faint traces of nat­ural motion on linen, at his stu­dio on the White Earth Nation in Min­nesota. The very sight of the shrouds tor­ments the tra­di­tional fas­cists on the reser­va­tion, and the faint traces of native totems haunt the patrons of gal­leries and cura­tors of muse­ums. “I cre­ate traces of totemic crea­tures, paint vision­ary char­ac­ters in mag­i­cal flight, native scenes in the bright col­ors of sur­vivance,” Dogroy declares.

His artis­tic sen­ti­ments and shamanic trib­ute to the shrouds, how­ever, do not pro­tect him from envi­ous ene­mies on the reser­va­tion. Dogroy is ban­ished by casino politi­cians, in fla­grant vio­la­tion of the new Con­sti­tu­tion of the White Earth Nation for his artis­tic tease, his baroque mock­ery and his ironic portrayals.

This unfor­get­table jour­ney of dis­cov­ery and cre­ativ­ity ranks as one of the finest sto­ries from the pen of the irre­sistibly witty and insight­ful Ger­ald Vizenor.

The inven­tor of inven­tion rides again. In this book, the mas­ter trick­ster takes on the dis­ci­plines of visual art, nar­ra­tive, and song in his ongo­ing cam­paign against vic­timry, to set natives upright and to insure the truth of native sur­vival. Ger­ald Vizenor is the healer of irony with his focus on the native par­a­digm. What a plea­sure to ride into Vizenor­land, where col­ors spread and horses fly. Vizenor is my cho­sen com­poser of words.” — Diane Glancy, author The Rea­son for Crows

Vizenor’s many books include Inte­rior Land­scapes, Sec­ond Edi­tion: Auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal Myths and Metaphors, also pub­lished by SUNY Press; Fugi­tive Poses: Native Amer­i­can Indian Scenes of Absence and Pres­ence; Man­i­fest Man­ners: Nar­ra­tives on Postin­dian Sur­vivance; Hiroshima Bugi: Atomu 57; and Sur­vivance: Nar­ra­tives of Native Pres­ence.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011



Out of University of Arizona Press and soon to be available in October is SING; Poetry from the Indigenous Americas.

SING might seem familiar to devotees of Ndn poetry and that's because a third of it was in a journal called To Topos: Poetry International Published in 2006 by Oregon State University.

From the University of Arizona Press website:

Editor and poet Allison 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.

A reading from SING at The University of Arizona Poetry Center, November 7th, 2011, 7pm will feature editor Allison Hedgecoke, Sherwin Bitsui, Travis Hedge Coke, Natalie Diaz, Mariah Gover, Simon Ortiz, Layli Long Soldier, Laura Tohe, Orlando White, Steven Yazzie, and Ofelia Zepeda.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Our Blood Remembers by Lois Red Elk

If you Google Lois Red Elk you will be pleased to discover dozens and dozens of hits that feature her film roles. I’ve enjoyed many of Lois’ films over the years: Skins, Lakota Woman, Outside Ozona, just as much as I’ve enjoyed her published poetry over the years. This year Lois released her first collection of poetry Our Blood Remembers by Many Voices Press. Congratulations Lois!

The following is a review from The Herald News out of Roosevelt County, Montana.

By Lara Shefelbine

A Wolf Point woman who has written for more than 50 years has published a collection of poems in her first book, bringing alive numerous memories of her lifetime, childhood and family experiences on the Fort Peck Reservation.

In the book Our Blood Remembers, Lois Red Elk weaves together a series of anecdotes and thoughts from her lifetime using dazzling, imaginative poetry.

Red Elk, a member of the Sioux Nation and an enrolled member of the Fort Peck Tribes, tells of her childhood spent growing up between Poplar and Wolf Point and the lessons she learned being raised by her father, mother and influential grandmothers.

Not only does the author detail meaningful events of her lifetime, Red Elk also shares some of her favorite Dakota/Lakota words and phrases. Her perspective brings a new light to topics ranging from the importance and significance of family to the exploitation of Native American culture. The content of the poems contained in Our Blood Remembers ranges from the distant past and the old ways to the present and the changes that have occurred with the passage of time.

All in all, Red Elk offers an undisguised look at the Sioux culture that defines her life and encourages us to feel the emotions that run deep in the blood, which truly does remember.

Our Blood Remembers was published by Many Voices Press of Flathead Valley Community College. It is available at Fort Peck Community College, where Red Elk teaches Indian studies, and online at

Grandmother Praying

by Lois Red Elk


Every morning it was a ritual; I would hear her stirring,

knew she was putting on her moccasins, bed creaking

told me she was collecting her hair into one long braid,

nimble fingers flexing then pulling a robe around her

motherly frame. Her breathing was steady but hurried,

sometimes a cough or a hum, to let us know she was

beginning her time with the new day. The door would

open quietly, fresh air would flush through the rooms,

then out the back windows leaving sweet smells of

dew on morning grass. These moments that have been

imprinted in my mind, I bring back weekly, make

them my own present knowledge, my faith. I see

where she is standing along side our old log house,

watch the morning breeze lift loose hairs around her

temples into fine ripples. Her dark eyes receive spirits

who dwell in sun’s rays, just above earth and warmly

mingle with quivering poplar leaves and songs of

meadowlark and robin. To the east, where all life

begins, she raises a hand to touch the Great Spirit’s

space, the place where connection is made with the

sacred world. In her other hand she carries a small

braided circle of sweet grass, mother earths generously

imparted, fragrant hair as her communion offering from

the mortal, to ancestors and angels. Grandmothers

whisper softly unifies with the essence of increasing

light, her greeting, her acknowledgment of the sacredness

has begun. Two slight steps and her body faces south.

She bows in reverence, humbly lowering her face as a

common human being portraying the difficulty to stand

upright before the moving power of the creator. A tear

slides to the soil, another sacrifice from her frail stature

as she asks forgiveness for the failures of her people and

her offspring. She knows the difficulty of maintaining

custom and practice, how insistent dark energies pry away

loved ones from wisdom and grace to error and ignorance.

And, she knows this direction of growth will win the battle,

that all will be forgiven and restored. Her body

straightens and is strengthen as she meets the west,

meets that dark strength approaching and forming

into healing clouds. It is where the infinite voice of

Thunderbirds lightning oath will bring renewal.

Grandmothers knows that source of replenishing rain

brings needed purification. She thanks all the powers

who will quench the thirst of all life. And she knows

she too will have the comfort of thunders blessing. She

has come full circle. The peace of the north welcomes

her and her prayers – that tireless course she claims as

wont. She will witness and celebrate abundant rewards

for a people reclaiming birthright then receiving the fruit

of supplication. That sacred journey through the morning,

the universe has been with the Great Spirit as direction,

her devotion in life. She knows this has always been the

true spirit of her people. This day, that collective spirit,

that humble utterance from a woman dedicated to her

ancestry, is brought before eternity, before the witness

of the all knowing, loving entity, beholding for all time.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Native Poets in D.C.

This is the link to the web cast for the auspicious reading of "The Florida Review, Native Issue" at the National Museum of the American Indian this last January. I couldn't go because I didn't have anything to wear, that being among my most preeminent concerns, vain as I am.

See, you assume I'm
listening to these web casts, but I'm actually mentally cataloging people's outfits. I once panned a highly respected poet because I thought her blouse was really unflattering. And don't get me started on accessories! Just because access is in accessory doesn't mean you have an obligation to drape it on your body.

I was very pleased and delighted with the ensembles this fine group of poets happened to wear to the reading -- it can be hard to pull off in the middle of winter! It's nearly impossible to wear cute shoes in the winter let alone cute shoes that happen to match your outfit!

Black was a very dominant color for the program; I suspect the organizers gently suggested to the poets that black would be the most flattering for the camera, plus it's so slimming, how could you go wrong?

I bought a very cute velveteen black dress this winter, ordered from a catalog ( I had planned to wear it to a reading in Missoula, Montana) but when it arrived it had very little resemblance to the color black at all--it was more like a pewter or blueish gray color. I thought I could live with it, but there really is no substitute for black and I don't care what Tim Gunn might say about brown being the new black, there
just is no substitute. Speaking of ordering from catalogs: a friend of mine ordered a velour hoodie from a catalog; she selected the color ZODIAC, thinking surely it was black. Except it wasn't. It was brown. Do you think zodiac is brown? Definitely not!

I'm super pleased to have this webcast, so many shiny outfits! They coordinate so well with the poetical part of the program. Enjoy! (P.S. You'll notice a handful of supermodels in this webcast, I don't know why Native poets are getting so much better looking than the previous wave, but they appear to be much taller and with better teeth; present company excluded, of course! ;-)

"Sure, that poem was a'right, but did you see her SHOES?!"

This is the
link again.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Is 'Native Erotica' an oxymoron?

I wanted to compile a list of Native publications with erotica as a theme. A few years ago, the erotic seemed to be conspicuously absent from the body of contemporary Native literature, as it were. Or it didn't have a large presence among the critical discourse or perspectives. Interestingly enough, it was vital and present in two-spirit writings; the first writer that comes to mind is Chrystos. There was never any question as to whether her poetry detailed the transcendent and sometimes harrowing aspects of relationships and sexuality.

Ojibway author Drew Hayden Taylor addresses the puzzling myth that Natives are asexual beings.
In his essay, "Indian Love Call," he writes: "In the vast majority of non-Native literature, Aboriginal characters, just as they never have a sense of humour, are rarely ever viewed as sexual beings. And if they are, their sexuality is not healthy. Kidnapping, rape and other assorted defilements are the order of the day on this particular pop culture menu. Tender love stories involving Native people are scarcer than priests at a residential school reunion."

In order to remedy this Taylor edited the anthology "Me Sexy: An Exploration of Native Sex and Sexuality."

Taylor writes: "If you’ve ever wondered about the relative abundance of pubic hair among women and men of the First Nations, you don’t have to feel alone anymore." Those are comforting words.

In 2003, Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm's press Kegedonce published "Without Reservations: Indigenous Erotica." Following this collection, Kegedonce has published several other amazing First Nations' poets running along this same theme of love and erotica. Poets such as Al Hunter's "The Recklessness of Love." And Joanne Arnott's "Steepy Mountain: Love Poetry.

University of Arizona's literary magazine "Red Ink," came out with an erotica edition in 2002 (Cover art above).

"Indigenous Erotica is political. More than that, it's stimulating, inspiring, beautiful, and sometimes explicit. It's written by indigenous writers, painted by Indigenous painters, filmed by Indigenous filmmakers, photographed by Indigenous photographers, sung by Indigenous singers." -- Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm

Perhaps encouraged or inspired by these collections and anthologies I put out the chapbook "Guiding the Stars to Their Campfire, Driving the Salmon to Their Beds."

Which I intended to act as balms to comfort hearts in danger of breaking. There is a meditative, dreamy quality to many of the poems and a commentary on many of our creation stories and myths.

But what is poetry if not love poetry; all poetry is love poetry isn't it?

sweetheart when we make love press brown skins & lovely bones together and are 2 halfbreed hearts grooving to the same fullblood dance we create not only a whole indian song (your chippewa chants to my lakota tune) but sweetheart in the dark we become the entire tribe -- Tiffany Midge

The poet Deborah Miranda wrote a compelling paper called "Dildos, Hummingbirds, and Driving Her Crazy: Searching for American Indian Women's Love Poetry and Erotics," which was inspired from the absence of Native poets in a course she enrolled in at the University of Washington called "Women's Love Poetry and Erotics." Much of Miranda's own poetry runs the gamut of love and erotica; her collections "The Zen of La Llorona," and "Indian Cartography," contain exquisite thresholds and pronouncements, celebrations and laments in the ways of love.

Love Poem to a Butch Woman

by Deborah A. Miranda

This is how it is with me:
so strong, I want to draw the egg
from your womb and nourish it in my own.
I want to mother your child made only
of us, of me, you: no borrowed seed
from any man. I want to re-fashion
the matrix of creation, make a human being
from the human love that passes between
our bodies. Sweetheart, this is how it is:
when you emerge from the bedroom
in a clean cotton shirt, sleeves pushed back
over forearms, scented with cologne
from an amber bottle—I want to open
my heart, the brightest aching slit
of my soul, receive your pearl.
I watch your hands, wait for the sign
that means you’ll touch me,
open me, fill me; wait for that moment
when your desire leaps inside me.

Mohawk poet Janet Rogers has just released a collection of spoken word called "Red Erotic." The book also features photographs of erotic works by eight Indigenous artists. Rogers has been up to a lot, blurring the line between performance, spoken word and written expression. She was featured in this interview at Black Coffee Poet.

I'm sure I've left out of excellent stuff and when I hear of new things I'll add them to my growing list.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Fresh! Florida Review; Native Issue

The new issue of Florida Review arrived at my doorstep when I got home from the holidays. Essays and poems and stories, Oh My! The issue is dedicated to Louis Owens and edited by Jocelyn Bartkevicius and Toni Jensen with cover art "Enchanted" by Marla Allison. The contents feature some of the usual suspects but also new emerging voices.

A special reading of the issue will be presented at the AWP at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C., and there will also be a panel of contributors for the conference, titled "A New Generation, a New Conversation."

I have two extra copies and if you write to me at I will mail the first two lucky people who respond your very own copy! Free!

Here's the Table of Contents:


  1. Gerald Vizenor - Captain Eighty
  2. Allison Adelle HedgeCoke - Ai-ye Ai-ye
  3. Travis HedgeCoke - Alien in Nature
  4. Layli Long Soldier - Mockery
  5. Stephen Graham Jones - Girls
  6. Erika T. Wurth - Like a Phoenix
  7. Natanya Ann Sturgill-Pulley - The Way of Wounds
  8. Thomas Peacock - Soft Wind
  9. Melissa Michal - Phillip
  10. Geary Hobson - Arrowhead


  1. Stephen Graham Jones - Another Final Frontier
  2. Sara Marie Ortiz - Flight
  3. Sara Marie Ortiz - Penumbra and Thrum
  4. Tiffany Midge - Ten Ways to Consider the Great Spirit
  5. Tiffany Midge - Of Birds: Variations on a Theme
  6. Tiffany Midge - Indian Chat Room


  1. Orlando White - Empty Set
  2. Orlando White - f
  3. Orlando White - h
  4. Santee Frazier - Mangled in the Demolition Derby
  5. Santee Frazier - Twice Ruined
  6. Santee Frazier - The Skewered Face
  7. Sherwin Bitsui - from Flood Song
  8. Thomas Hubbard - A Few Old Stories
  9. Tacey M. Atsitty - Calico Prints
  10. Tacey M. Atsitty - Mothway
  11. Tacey M. Atsitty - S. Influenza
  12. Ahimsa Timoteo Bodhrán - arco iris
  13. Ahimsa Timoteo Bodhrán - each stone
  14. Kimberly L. Becker - La Doncella
  15. Alice Azure - August Offerings
  16. Susan Deer Cloud - You Are Driving North in November
  17. Susan Deer Cloud - Globe
  18. Chip Livingston - Come to the Den of My Hills
  19. Chip Livingston - A Proposal
  20. Chip Livingston - Mixed Blood at Catholic School
  21. Denise K. Lajimodiere - Dakota January
  22. Denise K. Lajimodiere - The Bush Dance
  23. Denise K. Lajimodiere - Father
  24. Sy Hoahwah - Allotment
  25. C.R. Resetarits - Flint Hills
  26. C.R. Resetarits - Territories
  27. Marianne A. Broyles - Going Out to Sea


  1. Native Poetry: A Conversation Between Santee Frazier and Sherwin Bitsui