Birthday Post – July 30, 2014

Today is my birthday, and I must say it has been a good year as far as getting my poetry published.  My newest chapbook, Worn Cities, attracted eighty pre-orders, enough for the publishers, Finishing Line Press, to proceed with a press run of 250 copies!  I am grateful to all my supporters who ordered copies, which will be shipped September 6th, 2014.

My poems have appeared in Cream City Review, About Place Journal,  and Yellow Medicine Review.   Of particular pleasure for me has been the release of Dawnland Voices (University of Nebraska Press), edited by Siobhan Senier.  It is an anthology of indigenous writing from New England tribal authors, including Mi’kmaw, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, Abenaki, Nipmuc, Wampanoag, Mohegan, Narragansett and Schaghticoke people. Each of the tribal sections contains an introduction  by a tribal community editor that assisted Siobhan in collecting and choosing the pieces showcased.

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Many of the authors I know personally or through correspondence.  Some I have showcased  on this site – Mihku Paul, Carol Bachofner, Cheryl Savageau and Siobhan Senier, the indefatigable editor!  In the Mi’kmaw section, I found myself loving Elsie Charles Basque’s story, “From Here to There,” where she recounts traveling alone with children from Saunierville, Nova Scotia to Willimantic, Connecticut, a place where my own mother had lived awhile.  There’s an excerpt of the late Lorne Simon’s wonderful novel, Stones and Switches.   James Sakej Youngblood, Jaime Battiste (father and son) outlined the basis of our Mi’kmaw treaties –underscored by an excellent essay by Grand Chief Donald Marshall Sr.,  Grand Captain Alexander Denny, and Putus (wisdom) Simon Marshall.

My entries included three poems – “Repatriation Soliloquy,” “Mi’kmaq Haiku,” and “Someday I Will Dance,” a personal favorite. Poems of the beloved poet, Rita Joe, are included and of course, Daniel Paul, our reknown activist, has an included section from his hard-hitting book, We Were Not the Savages.  As Joe Bruchac says, “…this is a brilliantly edited anthology.

If you want to order Dawnland Voices online, check out this link to learn more.

Even Dawnland Voices could not trump the best news of this birthday year: I found out the name of my biological fourth great grandmother–the one of whom I wrote in my May 7, 2013 post, listed below in the archives of this website.  Her name was (is) Marie LeBlanc Mius.  She had twin daughters, Marguerite and Madeleine Magdalene, born Mius – but taken in by another family, the Babin’s.  Marguerite became my third great grandmother.  There’s a story behind this “adoption,” believe me – but it’s for another time.  A cousin whom I found through autosomal DNA testing, Edward Cyr, helped me find her. I will never forget the enormous burden of obsession that rolled off my shoulders when Ed said, “You’ve found Her! You’ve found your grandmother.”  Not many people can boast of two family trees – double sets of relatives on down to the pre-colonial period of Nova Scotia.  I am thankful. In a future post, I will share a poem I wrote for Grandmother Marie.

Native Moons, Native Days Carol Bachofner’s New Book of Poetry

Recently released by Bowman Books, this is the seventh volume in The Native New England Authors Series.  There are several reasons why I love these poems.  First, the majority (nearly two-thirds) of the 65 poems contains an Abenaki word or phrase–the poet’s native language.   While it’s hard to pick one from amongst words that I hardly can pronounce–the poem “Wlowatawak” caught my attention, being about a grandmother who “left tribal stories / told over cups blue tea,”  tea made from the plants and flowers of the woods.  Carol follows a long tradition of Native authors who use their own tribal words in songs, poetry and stories.
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The wonder of it all is that New England tribal languages are being–and have been–pulled from the brink of extinction.  Jesse Bruchac, one person responsible for this revitalization, published a poem in 1996 (Reclaiming the Vision: Native Voices for the Eighth Generation), titled “Green Corn Song,” echoing every English line with a recurring line in Abenaki. What a privilege it would be to hear these ancient Abenaki words spoken by the poets themselves! Another reason I am drawn to these poems is that the tribal perspective and landscape are known to me–for my own tribe, the Mi’kmaq, are part of the same cultural group as Carol’s.  Much of her world is familiar to me, especially “Pond Water,” which “will always call to you / will always know when you return.”  I learned to swim and ice skate on a little lovely pond in Cromwell, Connecticut.
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The poem,”Land Sickness” particularly hit home, as I more often than not have lived in land-locked places, like Carol: “I have no salt spray for my hair, no chill / gray sand between my feet. I am bereft / of crisp ocean kisses and wild seaweed.”  When Carol asked me to compose a few testimonial lines for the back cover–I did so on the basis of one poem–“Zogwawon” (face paint), for its universal longing in these times of war:
          I paint my face, double curves
          on each cheek and across the brow.
          I choose the colors of war, red and black,
          kelegatsta, each stripe a memory of some wrong.
          I want yellow for the dawn, for peace.
          Bring trickster clowns to shake their rattles,
          no more baskhodebahiganal to break the heads
          of our enemies. No more shouts of insult.
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Available at www.nativeauthors.com.