by Joan Naviyuk Kane
Jessie LeBaron, Winter River and Trees (2019), 9x12”, charcoal and pencil on sanded paper.
from issue 3
Riiqtuŋa, susukpin? :: I’m reading, what are you going to do?
Laura Hennig Cabral, Folia, 24 x 36", ink on paper.
Consider our indigenous poetry and cultural criticism. Consider our lives as we live them. The twenty first century has been characterized by a new era of Indigenous organizing (e.g. Idle No More, the Keystone XL protest, Unist’ot’en Camp, the #NoDAPL protest, and the #MMIW [Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women] campaign). One effect of increased attention to these movements has been a new, broader political interest in indigenous cultural production, particularly as communities of all kinds seek new ways to respond to global environmental, political, and economic crises. In the context of contemporary poetry specifically, indigenous writers and their readerships have shifted their focus away from the questions of identity and cultural representation that characterize the work of yesteryear’s prominent writers who exemplify that which mollifies non-indigenous readers. Instead, for this folio of indigenous poets, poetics contributes directly both to challenges to ongoing colonial violence and to continuities of indigenous social and epistemic relation. This approach to the politics of poetry also situates this cohort of indigenous poets within a broader movement by Black, diasporic, queer, trans, disabled, and writers of color that understands poetry as a powerful socially and intellectually organizing force—a way of remaking language and political community in the face of environmental and economic precarity on a global scale.
Consider the development of new Indigenous formalisms that animate the work of this folio of poets. While other contemporary U.S. and global poetics have turned back to lyric modalities (both to depict the experiences of subjects differently positioned by race and gender and to challenge the apoliticism of the 20th century white avant-garde), this folio examines evolving formal practices that extend vital continuities of tribal social and epistemic relation. Here, formal invention is neither a turn away from politics or a capitulation to mainstream U.S. experimentalism. Rather, rigorous reimaginations of form are ways of attending to social and intellectual relations irreducible to colonial ontologies. Language, land, and history are not artifacts to be represented by poetry, but are methods for making and remaking Indigenous thought in an evolving political and cultural milieu.
Consider contemporary indigenous poetry’s relationship to the political imperatives of intensifying global concern. Consider how indigenous poetry takes on questions of environmental harm, economic insecurity, and unstable regimes of governance—questions that indigenous poetries situate in long arc of U.S. and European colonialism. And thinking beyond the politics of emergency, ask how indigenous poetics carry forward systems and practices of relation that have given and continue to give steadfastness to tribal ways of life across generations.
Consider the vital work of the six poets— Abigail Chabitnoy, Monique Sanchez, Michaelsun Knapp, Adrian Quintanar, Melanie Archuleta, and Rob Arnold— included in this collection, which I have guest-edited for this edition of Peripheries.
Joan Naviyuk Kane
February 14, 2020
traditional territory of the Massachusett people
Jessie LeBaron, Lake (2019), 9x12”, charcoal and pencil on sanded paper.
by Michaelsun Knapp