Publication Date: 28-Feb-07 | ISBN: 9781844712816 | Trim Size: 216 x 140 mm | Extent: 120pp | Format: Paperback
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Apprenticed to Justice is a collection of vividly rendered lyrical and narrative poems that trace the complex inheritances of Indigenous America, this “strange map drawn of blood and history.” It opens with intriguing glimpses of individuals—a mother “born of dawn / in a reckless moon of miscegenation,” cousins “who rotated authority / on marbles sex and skunk etiquette,” women “planting dreams with dank names like rutabaga and kohlrabi”—and it turns on the notion of legacy. From what dark turmoil of earth do we emerge? How and what do we inherit? To what mesh of tangled origins do we live apprenticed? These are the literal and the metaphorical questions Anishinaabe author Kimberly Blaeser asks in this, her third collection of poetry.
Grounded in rich details of places from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness to the arctic region of Kirkenes, Norway, the poems link the people and the landscapes through storytelling. Narratives range from the comedy of a missing outhouse floor to the longing for the return of an MIA. The storied landscapes of the poems, the “Rocky bottom allotted land(s) / twenty-eight slow horse miles / from the village store,” also become intertwined with tribal history. And the remembered tribal accounts of scorched earth campaigns or the Trail of Tears in their turn become enmeshed with contemporary justice issues including Potlatch’s relentless clear cutting of forest lands and the strange cannibalism inherent in Sr. Inez Hilger’s study of “other” cultures like that at Blaeser’s home, White Earth Reservation. Ultimately, attention to these justice issues invoke the lives of tribal elders whose figurative “fragile houses / pegged at the corners with only hope” somehow represent and teach survival. Finally, each movement in the book connects back to the act of writing, to the poems themselves as both remembrance and a kind of revolution—“these fingers / drumming on keys.”
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Acknowledgements; I. THE TURN WE TAKE; Family Tree; Shadow Sisters; A Boxer Grandfather; Mashkawapide; Jingles You Made; The Womanless Wedding; The More I Learn of Men’s Plumbing; MIA, Foreign and Domestic; II. THAT WHICH REFUSES PRETENTION; Cranes flushed from a field; Some Kind of Likeness; The Spirit of Matter; grace of crossings; Somewhere on the Verge; Two Oak Stories; Gelatin tadpoles; Boundaries; Memories of Rock; Listing Ecstatic; Drawing Breath; Seasonal: Blue Winter, Kirkenes Fire; Rain-soaked snowman’s scarf; Wild turkeys at field gate; House Work; 20 September; Ooh…Ahh!; Haiku Journey; Northern follows jig ; III. TO TRAVEL WITH YOU; Of Wind and Trees; Fingers paused on keyboard; Told at Beartooth in July; Sun through window slats; Something Deep Like Copper; If I Laid Them End to End; Indian in Search of an Entourage; Bizaan; Page Proofs; Goodbye to All That; Railroad Song; Stories of Fire; This Dance; IV. … IN THE AFTERMATH OF EVERY WAR; Red Lake 70; Housing Conditions of One Hundred Fifty Chippewa Families; Dictionary for a New Century; The Things I Know; Who Talks Politics; Fantasies of Women; V. GONE. OR GONE ON. AGAIN; What They Did by Lamplight; Refractions; Crunch of booted feet; Resisting Shape or Language; Weavings For Cousins Who Died Too Young; July 29, 2002; Apprenticed to Justice
PRAISE FOR THIS BOOK
“The poems in Apprenticed to Justice are a sublime combinaton of literary indulgences echoing booted feet on still frozen ground, turtle rattles, a flushing of cranes, or antler dangles near ears. Sweet maple sap and hazelnut eyes. Gelatin tadpoles and bullrush psalms. These poems bring the snowblind tumbling into dimension. Northern lights and doppelgangers. Excrement and cleansing. They warm valleys with buttercups; recite names invoking reason. They shoot meaning into madness with the subtle elegance of Anishinaabe style. Kim Blaeser is a knock-out poet, bringing boxers to steal hearts, floured fists to punch dough, and a serious sense of familial White Earth beauty, hunger, and humility that’s impossible to put down. Voles scuttle where crooked knuckles clench our very souls. This is an impressive and accomplished collection of poetic delivery we can truly feast upon. A necessary full copper voice. A balance in the tilt of the world.” —
“This is a gorgeous book. It’s musical and strange. I have already spent much time with Kim Blaeser’s new poems and I will keep reading them in the years to come.” —
“These poems are alive to every nuance of possibility in the natural world, every subtlety of connection between human beings and their environment. What makes the poems so powerful is not just the exactness of each detail, but the shimmering around the edges of things evoked, the “third form between,” the element that just eludes the eye.
Blaeser bears witness to the fleeting and mutable — ‘tadpole becoming frog, snowman in the process of thaw’ — but also to a strong and certain knowledge gained by lifelong ‘apprenticeship’, a knowledge earthed in silence as much as in language: ‘Not meaning / but almost, / not saying, / but the breath before.’
Blaeser shares … a unique vision that is at once personal and interwoven with the communal, the historical. There is humour here, as well as serious critique … This is a sure-handed work of impressive maturity and beauty. ” —
Kimberly Blaeser is a Professor at University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee where she teaches Creative Writing, Native American Literature, and American Nature Writing. Her publications include two books of poetry Trailing You, winner of the first book award from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas, and Absentee Indians and Other Poems, as well as a scholarly study, Gerald Vizenor: Writing in the Oral Tradition. Of Anishinaabe ancestry and an enrolled member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe who grew up on the White Earth Reservation, Blaeser is also the editor of Stories Migrating Home: A Collection of Anishinaabe Prose and Traces in Blood, Bone, and Stone: Contemporary Ojibwe Poetry. Her most recent critical publication is a 100-page essay on Native poetry, “Cannons and Canonization,” in The Columbia Guide to American Indian Literatures of the United States. Kim lives with her husband and two young children in the woods and wetlands of rural Lyons township Wisconsin.