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.


Rain Gom├ęz said...

This is frackin wonderful...and I love that you mention Miranda's poetry and article, the Indigenous Erotica Collection and Roger's new work! I hope you continue exploring, uncovering and talking about the nuances---perhaps make it a full book article or book... We need this from an Indigenous academic and creative perspective!!!

Just the facts please, Ma'am said...

Thanks for your encouragement, Rain. Kimberly Roppolo wrote an interesting paper on the erotic in Silko's work; it was published in that Red Ink Erotic issue. Maybe you should put out a call for papers and edit your own book on the subject. Sex sells. Haha.