Ahani: Indigenous American Poetry
Ahani: Indigenous American Poetry serves as an inlet to vast multi-cultural/multi-dimensional diversity of peoples whose presence extinguishes the very intention of colonization to a great degree. It is a tribute to various nations within a hemisphere of cultures wherein everything is relative despite some multi-millennial oppressions, holocausts, and subsequent suppressions intending to eradicate and erase relative principle and the people thereof. It is a mere sampling of contemporary voice from some of the millions of human beings peopling the Americas since time began. From peoples whose creation stories do not share Biblical rootage and do not distinguish themselves as the only people created, nor evolved, yet oftentimes commonly refer to the direct lineage ascendancy and descent as The People, Real People, or The Human Beings in a measure attesting to principal purposes of living and being in this world in this principal place. Not unlike the vision of this book—To Topos (Greek)—the place, a journal venture into specific realm of placement in worldly time and space of the international community and portions thereof. Each of these voices stems from a people dedicated to placement in the world of what is most lately referred to as the Americas and who continue to remain as near to hereditary origin places as their prophesies insist, or who took to migration as a means of circumventing the heavily prophesized onslaught heading their way from across the oceans.
This volume is a meager attempt to bring together some of the diverseness and communalities from peoples who have been here since the earth, as we know it, was still forming and whose footprints mark the very rock in solidified molten imprint all over this greatly abundant rise of the planet. It is an attempt to bring together voices whose conversations once again are taking place in this day and time and who are coming together as sister nations despite the dissolution of trade ways which pre-existed colonization and joined peoples from a physically undivided continent pre-invasion and pre-Panama canal land division. Though contemporary referrals designate the place to be three separate entities (North, Central, and South America) the truth of the matter is this is one land base which gave birth to thousands and thousands of richly diverse cultures who shared in the abundance and gifts of the motherlands for eons before encroachment and who still live richly diverse lives oftentimes on, or very near significant places of origin and/or pre-colonial prophesy, and who deserve much more attention and place for world counsel than has been tolerated by any oppressively colonizing people or their descendants until this time whereas now there is no other answer.
In an era where the Quechua are living a prophesy of reclamation, where Indigenous leaders are soon coming into political positions (long-held by oppressive entities) to provide clarity where colonization and econ-ethos society have devoured more of the previously nurtured environment than could be imagined in the previously existing eco-ethos Indigenous cultures, or can be sustained by the global planet and still provide home space to the peoples upon her breast. In the time where we have reached the stage my father referred to, long ago, as the time where the mother will shake herself loose of all necessary to ensure her own survival, to bring future generations into the world who have keener insight into balance through a nurture to nurture societal approach and who pay attention to her warnings as the people here had always done for eons before contact and who still insist it the way to sustain and nurture her. Will shake herself loose of conquering masses devouring more than their reaches to position themselves in mightiness reserved only for the immortals who share the universe with heavenly bodies and know the realms beyond the universe in a place we, in this time, were never meant to be.
This volume is an indication of word, of languages held in secrecy, coveted and continued despite the cannons and canons upon them. It is a celebration of togetherness despite physical divisions and of unity despite historically forced separation. It is an attempt in conversation with elevated lingual appreciation, engaging in poetic discourse with constructs of various cultural theories which come to fruition from prophesy and knowledge long-held and long protected intendment harbored for the time we ourselves will be a delineating factor as to whether we will survive as a species in this era of cataclysmic devastation and destruction.
The poets of the Indigenous Americas have assumed principal roles in oratory while defining present and presence; contemporarily interpreting value and condition; and performing intellectual reasoning which may very well present necessary prophesies of solution for our world. It is in these voices the culture resonates and is shared freely, and in these voices are indicators of deeper realms in actual presence within places of origin now often inhabited by representatives of nearly all peoples of the global planet. Whereas inclusions are also present of Indigenous American poets’ ventures to outside regions and continents as well.
In this place of gathering, for whatever reason in this time and place, truths are surfacing here and simultaneously in many Indigenous communities worldwide, which are great illuminations necessary now to circumvent the end of human life by the hand of non-Indigenous humankind upon the landscape we call home and on the mother planet we all stem from and need respect fully in order to protect ourselves and life itself. These poets are of this time, are present now, and speak of many realities and imagined realms without the need to fit into a timeline construct often oppositional to Indigenous thought and beingness. Though the ancestry is ancient in this place, and the ancestry a part of everything relative in this day, the people are very present in this time and continue to embrace the future with forethought and care necessary to ensure continuation.
It is impossible to represent all of the peoples of the Americas in a small volume, yet these pages present those contributions toward the path of reclamation vocalized herein. It is a way to restore through restorying; to hear truths through vocalization; to attend to personal vision through collective means; to endeavor to reach into ourselves as readers to amass what allusions are presented and to bring into fruition a selection re-establishing collective works by peoples who were intentionally divided to make colonization an easier task.
Anna Lee Walters once suggested that the further a creative piece may appear from what a non-Native may deem traditionally authentic, the closer that piece may actually be to what is Native in practical Indigenous cultural thought. Second-guessing Indigenous peoples has never worked. Instead, we hope all readers will come into the work and let the poets speak to well-define themselves on the page. Walters’ anthology Neon Pow Wow is inspirational to this work as are volumes collected by Joy Harjo, Simon Ortiz, Heid E. Erdrich, Laura Tohe and others. This literary journal has graciously provided a place for the conversation of international poetics and a place for the Aboriginal Americas to participate in that conversation. Thus, herein, we now invite you to relish these words offered at this time with the hope that the receiving will prove reciprocal and the works included in this volume may bring some sense of unity both to those creating these works and the readership they touch lightly upon. We dream it to be a beginning, one of many, that work to re-establish long-divided pathways between Indigenous Americans and one that serves Indigenous thought and brings world attention to contemporary Indigenous people, places, creative works, values and principles for living on the planet we all share. This, too, is imperative.
Allison Adelle Hedge Coke
Editor’s Note: Where colonizing languages have served to further divide Indigenous Americans, we have made effort to be inclusive of multi-lingual effort in and to include pieces of bilingual nature wherein languages of origin are presented in the hope of encouraging greater future works. Recognizable and previously unpublished poets have been selected for the work of this volume.
America, I Sing Back
for Phil Young, my father, Robert Hedge Coke, Whitman, and Hughes
America, I sing back. Sing back what sung you in.
Sing back the moment you cherished breath.
Sing you home into yourself and back to reason.
Oh, before America began to sing, I sung her to sleep,
held her cradleboard, wept her into day.
My song gave her creation, prepared her delivery,
held her severed cord beautifully beaded.
My song helped her stand, held her hand for first steps,
nourished her very being, fed her, placed her three sisters strong.
My song comforted her as she battled my reason
broke my long held footing sure, as any child might do.
Lo, as she pushed herself away, forced me to remove myself,
as I cried this country, my song grew roses in each tear’s fall.
My blood veined rivers, painted pipestone quarries
circled canyons, while she made herself maiden fine.
Oh, but here I am, here I am, here, I remain high on each and every peak,
carefully rumbling her great underbelly, prepared to pour forth singing—
and sing again I will, as I have always done.
Never silenced unless in the company of strangers, singing the stoic face,
polite repose, polite, while dancing deep inside, polite
Mother of her world. Sister of myself.
When my song sings aloud again. When I call her back to cradle.
Call her to peer into waters, to behold herself in dark and light, day and night,
call her to sing along, call her to mature, to envision—
Then, she will make herself over. My song will make it so.
When she grows far past her self-considered purpose,
I will sing her back, sing her back. I will sing. Oh, I will—I do.
America, I sing back. Sing back what sung you in.
This poem was first read at the XV International Poetry Festival of Medellin, Colombia and first appeared in Memories, 2005, Colombia. This is the first US publication.