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Great Native selections for National Poetry Month

National Poetry Month - 5 More Native Selections

Alex Jacobs

In honor of National Poetry Month, ICTMN is thrilled to provide a well-deserved shout to Native poets, writers and storytellers. In addition to our first round of highlighted poets, here are five more Native writers and titles that come highly recommended by other poets.

See Related: 5 Native Selections for National Poetry Month 

Please enjoy them and try to catch a reading, attend a performance or otherwise support Native literature. 

Jordan Abel – “INJUN” Talon Books 2016.

“Injun,” is a unique book in which Abel cut & pasted text from 91 public-domain pulp western novels published from 1840 to 1950 and digitally manipulated, into one long “epic” poem.

“He played injun in god’s country/ where boys proved themselves clean

Dumb beasts who could cut fire/ out of the whitest sand

He played English across the trail/ where girls turned plum wild

Garlic and strained words/ through the window of night

He spoke through numb lips and/ breathed frontier”


“He heard snatches of comment/ going up from the river bank

All them injuns is people first/ and besides for this buckskin

Why we even shoot at them/ and seems like a sign of warm

Dead as a horse friendship/ and time to pedal their eyes

To lean out and say the truth/ all you injuns is just white keys”

Laura Da’ – “Tributaries” University of Arizona Press, 2015.

Laura Da’ (Shawnee/Seneca/Miami) is a poet and a public school teacher and is a recipient of a 2015 Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Fellowship. Tributaries is a near documentary of Shawnee removal told in the present tense, as she watches the approximation of a scalping at a theatrical presentation.

"Soak a toupee with cherry Kool-Aid and mineral oil.

Crack the egg onto the actor's head.

Red matter will slide down the crown

and egg shell will mimic shards of skull."

As described by the University of Arizona Press, "These poems range from the Midwestern landscapes of Ohio and Oklahoma to the Pacific Northwest, and the importance of place is apparent. Tributaries simultaneously offers us an extended narrative rumination on the impact of Indian policy and speaks to the contemporary experiences of parenthood and the role of education in passing knowledge from one generation to the next. This collection is composed of four sections that come together to create an important new telling of Shawnee past and present." 

Jeanetta Calhoun Mish – “What I Learned at the War”, West End Press, 2016.

An Oklahoma poet, scholar, and director of the Red Earth Creative Writing MFA program at Oklahoma City University, this is her third book that “pays homage to a rough-and-tumble Oklahoma upbringing.”

Allison Hedge Coke says Jeanetta’s poems are “confessional, grief-drenched, malady-reamed…a rancorous home front fault line ceremoniously split in the open wide, yet she delivers synchronicity in place and time, in a sweet surrender.”

“The Coiled Serpent: Poets Arising from the Cultural Quakes and Shifts of Los Angeles” The Tia Chucha Collective

Tia Chucha is a writing collective in Los Angeles founded by poet/novelist Luis Rodriguez. The collective's latest endeavor is a project filled to the brim with hundreds of indigenous voices.

“The Coiled Serpent” anthology with over 200 poets who represent life in multicultural Los Angeles where 60% of the population are “minorities” and 225 languages are spoken at home in the sprawling urban area.

“Shedding Skins – Four Sioux Poets”, edited by Adrian C. Louis, American Indian Studies, Michigan State University Press, 2008.

Shedding Skins  is collection of works from four young male Sioux poets,  Joel Waters, Steve Pacheco, Luke Warm Water, and Trevino L. Brings Plenty, (edited by Adrian C. Louis)  that Michigan State University Press describes accordingly.  

The four young male Native American poets whose work is brought together in this startling collection would probably raise high their middle fingers in salute to this myth that Native Americans are people of great spiritual depth, in touch with the rhythms of the earth, rhythms that they celebrate through drumming and dancing. 

Louis, who wrote the novel, “Skins” that was made into a feature film of the same name by Chris Eyre, starring Graham Greene and Eric Schweig, says he hopes someone will someday publish a book of Sioux women poets but these men are “Skins writing for Skins” and “even though their subject matter may seem familiar…each poet becomes his own planet, his own galaxy.”

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