Native American Poetry

reading trailing you

Trailing You by Kimberly M. Blaeser contains a Preface, which is not always common in a collection of poetry.

"I think the best poems might be nothing more than a list of names of people, animals, places, plants sounds, seasons, because poetry is connections and these are the connections -- the poetry -- we all carry in our soul, the poetry that writers try to bring to the surface."

Blaeser has an unusual heritage, of Anishinaabe and German ancestry, and there is a nascent quality to the poems, born of a wisp of memory and nebulous dream. Blaeser is immigrant and “Indian,” woman and tracker, lover and beloved. The poems assimilate her memories, stories and experiences. The poems also veer to the very opposite of assimilation – confusion, exclusion, misunderstanding. From "On the Way to the Chicago Pow-Wow":

On the way to the Chicago pow-wow,
Weaving through four lanes of traffic.
   going into the heart of Carl Sandburg's hog-butcher to the world,
   ironic, I think, landing at Navy Pier for a pow-wow.
I think of what Roberta said: "Indiana people across the country
   are working on a puzzle, trying to figure out what I call
   -- the abyss."
Driving into the abyss. Going to a pow-wow.

The collection is divided into five sections with a namesake poem in each section: Living History, Where I was That Day, Trailing You, Road Show and Sewing Memories. Taken together the poems are quilt-like, patches of color and feeling abutting each other, fretting, contributing to a design which covers a range of topics – identity, love, loss, family – all united by the thread of memory and a woman emboldened enough to recount it true.

From “Sewing Memories: This Poem I’ve Wanted to Write”:

Into all those things we made
   we sewed bits of our bodies
   and bits of our dreams
   we sewed in errors more bold
   than those required in sand paintings
And what we created seemed truly to be ours
   because we did them that way
   filled with make-believe and mistakes
   instead of the usual way
   and maybe this poem about sewing
   refused to come out for such a long time
   because I was trying to follow someone else’s perfect pattern
So I thought I’d just make it our way
   lay the memories and stories out
   zig-zag through time
   and stitch them together the way I see them