The Department of English Creative Writing Program is pleased to co-host editors and contributors of The Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry. Online readings and panel discussions will take place via Zoom on Thursday, November 19, at 7:30 p.m. and Friday, November 20, at 2 p.m. The event is free, but registration is required. To register, please contact Department of English Professor Gordon Henry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Henry organized the upcoming virtual workshop to celebrate the historical significance of The Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry, When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through, which is the first historically comprehensive Native poetry anthology, containing the work of more than 160 poets and spanning approximately 100 indigenous nations. The book, edited by U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, features introductions by contributing editors from five geographically organized sections. The sections begin with a traditional oral literature poem and close with a piece written by an emerging poet.
My hope in staging this event was to make people aware of the significance of this publication. And I want the MSU community and a larger reading public, from as far as we can reach at this time, to have the opportunity to hear the work of the poets we are bringing in for this event.Gordon Henry, Professor of English
The November 19 and 20 events will feature poets Tacey Atsitty (Dine, Tsenahabilnii), Meg Noodin (Anishinaabe), Gwen Westerman (Dakota), Leanne Howe (Choctaw), Tanaya Winder (Duckwater Shoshone, Southern Ute & Pyramid Lake Paiute), Cedar Sigo (Suquamish), and Mark Turcotte (Anishinaabe, Turtle Mountain Band). They will be moderated by Kim Blaeser (Anishinaabe, White Earth Nation) and Jennifer Foerster (Mvskoke).
“My hope in staging this event was to make people aware of the significance of this publication,” Henry said. “And I want the MSU community and a larger reading public, from as far as we can reach at this time, to have the opportunity to hear the work of the poets we are bringing in for this event.”
Henry is a featured poet and Regional Advisor for the Midwest and Northeast section of The Norton Anthology. His work centers on cultural loss, including loss of connection to place, loss of people, and loss of ways of life.
“A certain alienation from contemporary American culture inheres in that sense of loss,” he said. “At the same time, I believe my work memorializes place, strong connections to people in tribal communities, and creative memory as telling of cultural resilience and the continuance of Anishinaabe lifeways.”
Henry is familiar with most of the writers featured in the anthology, whether it be personally or through their writings.
“I have often turned to the work of a number of writers in the anthology, as inspirational sources, at times to process my own writing, at other times to just take in their words, their voices, and let them live with me for a while,” Henry said. “I’ve also used the work of many of the writers featured in Our Songs Came Through in courses I’ve taught.”
The anthology speaks to tribally specific pedagogical approaches as well as broader perspectives on colonialism, decolonization, settler colonial states, as well as themes of resistance, cultural resilience, and historical trauma. Henry believes that an entire course could be structured around the anthology and that the text would be an appropriate reference for a graduate or undergraduate course in American Indian literature.
I have often turned to the work of a number of writers in the anthology, as inspirational sources, at times to process my own writing, at other times to just take in their words, their voices, and let them live with me for a while. I’ve also used the work of many of the writers featured in Our Songs Came Through in courses I’ve taught.Gordon Henry, Professor of English
“The diversity of authors and the diversity of identities and cultures they write about offers plenty of pedagogical approaches to the text,” he said. “And, of course, any teaching related to this text should embrace the poetics of the text. While writers represent diversity of cultures, they also apply a diversity of poetic techniques, a diversity of poetic voices, and a diversity of poetic concerns. The anthology is amazing in that regard.”
The anthology already has sold out its first print run, suggesting a great interest In American Indian Literature.
“I’ve been around long enough to know that interests in writing by Natives waxes and wanes, ebbs and flows, seems to move through the broader interests of culture, in particles and waves, sometimes changing the light by which we Native people are viewed by culture, sometimes remaining in the shadows of some other soup du jour,” Henry said. “But all of us in the field know that our writing, the work of Native writers, is always out there for people to engage with if they so choose.”
In addition to the November events, a forthcoming ‘Prerequisites’ podcast episode will feature several of the contributors to The Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry and will be hosted by Department of English Assistant Professor Zack Kruse.
Other events will take place over the course of the next year, with the hope of organizing more live audience events in the wake of the COVID pandemic. Henry hopes to organize writing workshops in tribal communities, at different sites, at different times, during the summer months. Our Songs Came Through writers would lead workshops for tribal youth and adult writers. The workshops would be connected to public readings in the communities where they are offered.