What is striking in Azure’s work is her emphasis on travel, especially around ceremony and among urban areas where other Native people reside. Her peripatetic life directly informs the poetic hubs of her chapbook, In Mi’kmaq Country. The first piece, “Someday I Will Dance,” acts like a hub anchoring her many locations and affiliations. It sets its speaker in an unnamed but distinctly urban, Midwestern space described as “This world of asphalt grids” (18). From that vantage point, she catches a glimpse of colorful fall foliage, which gives her occasion to travel imaginatively across space and time, to join “the People” in a dance (25-26). She pictures them in a quatrain that begins in the Midwest and travels back to Mi’kmaq homeland:
Do they dance at old Saukenuk,
At the capes of North and Blomidon?
Do their voices rise above Katahdin,
Around the harvests of Gaspe? (10-13)
Saukenuk, once the principal village of the Sauk nation, is now an Illinois State Park. It purportedly pays homage to Black Hawk, one of many Native leaders who have been re-appropriated for American mythologies: a brave hero who ultimately and inevitably lost his fight with settlers, thus ushering in colonial progress and ushering out the vanishing race. A visit to this kind of site is one of Azure’s signature poetic gestures. Her latest book, Games of Transformation, is a reflection on the Cahokia Mounds, also in present-day Illinois.11 There, as in her reimagination of Saukenuk, she subverts the US national imaginary by calling into being a Native community and a Native future.
The next three lines (tracing capes North and Blomidon, Mount Katahdin, and the Gaspe peninsula) triangulate Mi’kmaq aboriginal territory, doubling back and forth across the international line as though the speaker is exercising her rights under the 1794 Jay Treaty. Azure moves from Cape North on the northeast portion of Cape Breton Island (allegedly the first point of land John Cabot saw) to Cape Blomidon on the northern side of the Nova Scotia in the Bay of Fundy, over to Mount Katahdin in the interior of Maine, and up to the Gaspe peninsula of Quebec, the northernmost part of Mi’kmaq territory. She repatriates herself by covering places with significance in traditional histories of the Wabanaki hero Glooscap—Blomidon was once called “Glooscapweek,” or “home of Glooscap” (Hornborg 86). She traces an international, cosmopolitan trajectory, moving among Native communities constituted before the currentframework of nation-states and still understood outside that framework. (excerpted from pages 25-27)
For the entire essay, go to Senier37.1
Front Cover Art courtesy of MELUS, where it first appeared ( Vol issue 2012). All Nations Seek Peace. 2012. By Mihku Paul. Aquarelle, watercolor, and ink. Copyright Mihku Paul. Reproduced with permission of the artist. Cover Design: Phil Wolfe Graphic Design, www.pwgraphicdesign.com. Reproduced with permission of MELUS.