In keeping with our goal of developing empathy, compassion, and awareness through education and creative writing, Writing for Peace is encouraging expanded reading through our partnership with Poetic Justice Books. This is the first of our Advisers’ Recommended Readings, a review by Writing for Peace Adviser Robert Kostuck.
NDN: the words of a little hawk
by Elaine Gerard
reviewed by Robert Kostuck
Difficult subjects often make for strong and worthwhile poetry, and in NDN: the words of a little hawk, Elaine Gerard is never at a loss for subject matter. In “My Uncivil Heart,” she delineates the balance between her Native American heritage and the mainstream social expectations.
“. . . I see out of the corner
of slatted dark eyes,
the tattered edge of an arrow
and the shaggy heart
of the Indian beast
that wishes to rival
the best efforts of
your teacup world.”
Indeed, her heritage is the basis for her approach to all experience, strident and complex panegyrics which illuminate whatever touches her heart. Cultural awareness can be difficult when one is in the default position; beyond that position it becomes the root of everything. Social interaction, relationships with people or nature, sex, introspection, and healing fall within her scope. Her eye is unflinchingly honest, and a poem like “Desert Rain” is objective—as good writing must be—never falling into self-pity.
“a baby girl stirs in my belly
safe from this red shower
he stands over me with a fist,
I slipped and fell and now,
it’s pouring in my kitchen and
I don’t have a way out of the rain.”
This unflinching eye also acts as witness to the beauty of the natural world. As a member of the Blackfeet Indian Nation, Gerard lives her affinity for the landscape and sensory impressions of Montana. One can easily visualize this geography in the section titled Montana In My Blood, and “Sleepy Highway” perfectly illustrates this.
“This Montana day,
this long road
is lined with
thoughts of chickens,
truckloads of hay
and winter wheat
sleeping in brown dirt,
it smells like sage
and a thousand pieces
of my past . . . .”
The section titled “Letting Go” is a perfect example of objective soul searching, intensely personal evaluations, meditations on what it is to be human. The expression of self, composed for the self, offers the opportunity for reflection, consideration, and closure. Lines from “Remembering to Forget” concisely illustrate what a talented writer can do when given the opportunity for self-evaluation.
“I dig into my heart
to squeeze the feelings out,
in amazement at my life,
allow my soul to embrace
and maybe to love
the gentle pain of past losses,
to acknowledge my present life,
and all its goodness . . . .”
Part of the “Prologue” to this volume encapsulates what a reviewer can be at a loss to say. Would that others take a lesson from this highly recommended work, looking within themselves to discover who they really are.
“Life spits out a silent little girl who watches the world, a beleaguered teen into the mean streets and a married woman out the door of life as a divorcee. She is finding her way.”
Robert Kostuck is the guest editor for the February 2020 online issue of DoveTales. The theme is “Gardens in the Desert: Cultivating Awareness.” Broadly interpreted, this theme can encompass — Emotional, psychic, intellectual, physical, or social growth.
— The myriad ways we plant, nurture, harvest, or reap.
— Real or metaphorical gardens as destinations, refuges, nexus points of transformation, or starting points.
— Relationships real or imagined: the arid and/or seemingly empty places in interpersonal connections. The spaces in-between. Memory gaps, the gaps between intention and action, the passage of time forgotten. Empty pages, deleted hard drives, houses emptied of possessions, minds cleared of thoughts and desires.
— Bringing life to actual deserts, urban deserts, arctic deserts, lives that are deserts, relationships that are deserts, deserts of the past or future.
— Awareness = seeking, cultivating, residing in, exemplifying.
Submission window open through November 01, 2019. Submissions of poetry, fiction, non-fiction, interviews, art, and photography are all welcome.
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