August 11, 2011

Native poets with "poempathy"

Gesture of grace

American Indian poets take the stage at SOMOS Summer Writers Series

By Dory Hulburt
Oglala Lakota poet Layli Long Soldier and her partner, poet Orlando White, Diné (Navajo) of the Naaneesht’ézhi Tábaahí (Zuni Water’s Edge Clan) and born for the Naakai Diné’e (Mexican Clan), bring “poempathy” to the SOMOS Summer Writers Series event Thursday (Aug. 11), 7:30 p.m. Their readings will take place in the Arthur Bell Auditorium of the University of New Mexico’s Harwood Museum of Art, 238 Ledoux Street.

White declined to define “poempathy,” a term with which he signs off some of his email. That puts the word in public domain, open to interpretation. Is it the reader’s empathy for the contents of the poet’s head which have tumbled out on the page? Or a gesture of grace by the poet—an unspoken vow to communicate and not prestidigitate?

The couple lives in Tsaile, Ariz., on the Navajo reservation with their 5-year-old daughter, Chance. Long Soldier’s mother is from northern Idaho and her father is Lakota, from the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, but she grew up mostly in the Southwest. When she was 11, her mother got a job with the Navajo tribe and they moved to the Four Corners area.
Comment:  For more on Native poets, see Howe Wins Festival of Words Awards and Mohawk Spoken-Word Poet.

Below:  Diné (Navajo) poet Orlando White.

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