In anticipation of Tupelo Press’s forthcoming anthology project, Native Voices, I’m pleased to continue a series of posts honoring Indigenous poetry from North America.
But first, I’d like to say a few words about this exciting and necessary anthology. Tupelo Press is eager to celebrate a more complete version of the story we tell—about ourselves, our past, and what is possible in language. In this book, the first of its kind, every poet will present new poems, as well as an original essay, and a selection of resonant work chosen from previous generations of Native artists. Our anthology is intended to embody the dynamic and ongoing conversations that take place in Indigenous poetry through writerly craft across generational, geographic, and stylistic divides.
With that in mind, it is an honor and a delight to introduce one of our poets, Karenne Wood. Karenne Wood is an enrolled member of the Monacan Indian Nation who directs Virginia Indian Programs at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. She holds a MFA in poetry and a PhD in linguistic anthropology. She has worked at the National Museum of the American Indian as a researcher and at the Association on American Indian Affairs as a repatriation specialist. In 2015 she was honored as one of Virginia’s Women in History. Karenne is the author of two poetry collections, Markings on Earth (2000) and Weaving the Boundary, (2016). Her poems have appeared in such journals as The Kenyon Review, Orion, and Shenandoah.
Here is one of her contributions to the anthology project, "Deer Woman." Enjoy!
He hunted me into the clouds as I sought the blue
star-petaled flower, its scent like magnolia and peach.
I left my family in the meadow to pick my steps
Across patched snow, where fields grasped edges of sky.
There is within some of us a longing to be stripped clean.
Alongside, the forest held his shape. His scent rose to me
with the wind. Too late I knew him, too late to find cover,
and I ran as I was made to—haunches taut, nostrils steaming,
like a swallow I darted into glistening whiteness.
When I tired, he was there. His circle tightened.
Dark, and dark-eyed, hypnotic—I could feel his hunger
as my own. I had taunted his dreams more than once,
dreamt that mouth, the merciless craving in him.
There is within some of us a longing to be stripped clean,
To give it all—strings of sinew, tufted hair, marrow,
white ropes of fat, to bare the body’s pulse. I froze,
heavy with the need to dissolve into him, his mouth
the deep red song of an appeasable desire.
On the wind, I hear another song, my family calling out
to me, calling me into my name. But I cannot return
from this altitude, bound to his hunger, which is a kind
of love. I will kneel in a cloud’s wisp of grace, to discover
how completely our own wanting wounds us.
Published in Weaving the Boundary, University of Arizona Press. Grateful acknowledgements as well to Shenandoah, where this poem first appeared.
For more information about our anthology project, and how you can help bring this book to life, please visit our Kickstarter page.