Cultures

Indigenous Writers

Since the beginning of the year, Path with Art staff have a tradition of sharing the work of Native American artists at the start of our weekly staff meeting. In honor of Native American Heritage Month, I wanted to begin sharing out some of these incredible artists that we’ve been learning about and admiring. Let’s start off with some writers, authors, and poets!

Deborah A. Miranda is an enrolled member of the Ohlone-Costanoan Esselen Nation of the Greater Monterey Bay Area in California. Her mixed-genre book Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir (Heyday 2013), received the 2015 PEN-Oakland Josephine Miles Literary Award, a Gold Medal from the Independent Publishers Association, and was short-listed for the William Saroyan Literary Award. She is also the author of four poetry collections: Indian CartographyThe Zen of La LloronaRaised by Humans, and the forthcoming Altar for Broken Things. She is coeditor of Sovereign Erotics: A Collection of Two-Spirit Literature. Deborah lives in Lexington, Virginia with her wife Margo and a variety of rescue dogs. She is the Thomas H. Broadus, Jr. Professor of English at Washington and Lee University, where she teaches literature of the margins and creative writing. Visit her blog, BAD NDNS.

Buy Bad Indians from an Indigenous-owned bookstore or borrow it from the Seattle Public Library!

Robin Wall Kimmerer is a mother, scientist, decorated professor, and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. She is the author of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants, which has earned Kimmerer wide acclaim. Her first book, Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses, was awarded the John Burroughs Medal for outstanding nature writing, and her other work has appeared in Orion, Whole Terrain, and numerous scientific journals. She tours widely and has been featured on NPR’s On Being with Krista Tippett and in 2015 addressed the general assembly of the United Nations on the topic of “Healing Our Relationship with Nature.” Kimmerer is a SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor of Environmental Biology, and the founder and director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment, whose mission is to create programs which draw on the wisdom of both indigenous and scientific knowledge for our shared goals of sustainability.

Buy Braiding Sweetgrass from an indigenous-owned bookstore or borrow it from the Seattle Public Library!

Rebecca Roanhorse is a NYTimes bestselling and Nebula, Hugo, and Locus Award-winning speculative fiction writer and the recipient of the 2018 Astounding (Campbell) Award for Best New Writer. Rebecca has published multiple award-winning short stories and five novels, including two in The Sixth WorldSeries, Star Wars: Resistance RebornRace to the Sun for the Rick Riordan imprint, and her latest novel, the epic fantasy Black Sun. She has also written for Marvel Comics and for television, and had projects optioned by Amazon Studios, Netflix, and Paramount TV. Find her Fiction & Non-Fiction HERE. She lives in Northern New Mexico with her husband, daughter, and pup. She drinks a lot of black coffee. Find more at https://rebeccaroanhorse.com/ and on Twitter at @RoanhorseBex.

Buy Black Sun from an Indigenous-owned bookstore or borrow it from the Seattle Public Library!

Joy Harjo is an internationally renowned performer and writer of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. She is serving her second term as the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States. The author of nine books of poetry, including the highly acclaimed An American Sunrise, several plays and children’s books, and two memoirs, Crazy Brave and Poet Warrior, her many honors include the Ruth Lily Prize for Lifetime Achievement from the Poetry Foundation, the Academy of American Poets Wallace Stevens Award, two NEA fellowships, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. As a musician and performer, Harjo has produced seven award-winning music albums including her newest, I Pray for My Enemies. She is Exec­u­tive Edi­tor of the anthol­o­gy When the Light of the World was Sub­dued, Our Songs Came Through — A Nor­ton Anthol­o­gy of Native Nations Poet­ry and the editor of Living Nations, Living Words: An Anthology of First Peoples Poetry, the companion anthology to her signature Poet Laureate project. She is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, Board of Directors Chair of the Native Arts & Cultures Foundation, and holds a Tulsa Artist Fellowship. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Photo by Matika Wilbur

Read some poems by Joy Harjo via Poetry Foundation or borrow a book from the Seattle Public Library!

Stay tuned for more Indigenous Artist highlights!

Partners · Poetry · Writing

We Are All Here

Pallet is a social purpose company on a mission to build equal opportunity access to housing and employment. Elevating the voices of people with lived experience with homelessness, recovery, and incarceration is integral to Pallet’s mission. In addition to telling the personal stories of their team and people living in Pallet shelter villages, they aim to raise the voices of system-impacted and marginalized persons everywhere.

Pallet has teamed up with Path with Art to support and amplify the voices of some of our participant artists with lived experience of homelessness. Check out this beautiful poem from PWA Ambassador Pam Winter, below. You can read the full interview with Pam on Pallet’s blog, and also check out the poetry and interview of PWA Ambassador & Blog Editor Aaron Hill!

We are All Here

by Pam Winter

We live in tent cities behind nylon walls, huddled in wool blankets in doorways of neglect.
We live in secured high-rises casting shadows below, houses flooded with desire, homes gated in fear.
We live with slumlords and in public housing too.
We live alone in our minds, wandering along pathways edged by open chains.

We work for corporate greed,
We dumpster dive for food,
We work for non-profits to build a better world,
We ask for spare change, sometimes shoot-up to heal a gaping wound.
We are honest laborers, the shrunken middle class,
We do not ask for handouts, but will reach for a helping hand. 

We race upstairs chasing freedom and we lounge on city streets,
We stand in long lines at food banks, waiting for leftovers we can’t afford,
We walk in parks and shop behind gilded walls.
Sometimes we steal in the night, while white collars take in the light to line their coffers gold.

Sometimes life feels darker than the backside of the moon;
we watch her catch her breath 
as she rushes to soften the edges of what we call urban blight.
Sometimes we feel the ecstasy of unity, especially on nights like tonight. 

We are a city on shifting tectonic plates, frayed at the edges, 
clothed in attitudes of love and dismay.
We are a city of others, separate and near.
We are teachers and students alike, but webs twist around our minds, our lives,
isolating us from those who look and think more different than we’d like. 

We are all here, polarized by red and blue fear.
We must break down the walls,
Step out of the shadow of Them, Other, They.
We must hold our sister’s gaze, grasp our brother’s hand.
Link our minds to overcome judgments about what we think is right.

We are all here; the me in them.
The drum beat of our city, the heartbeat of Seattle, 
the energy that makes our diversity vibrate with rhythm that unites.

 We are All here and we’re not going anywhere.

Mixed Media · Poetry

Insomnia

I converted a section of the poem into a Photoshop brush and created a mandala. I then layered the mandala with a pattern and clipped out a section.I converted a section of the poem into a Photoshop brush and created a
mandala. I then layered the mandala with a pattern and clipped out a section.

A conversation with my psychiatrist inspired me to write the poem. He asked me why my feelings of hopelessness led to thoughts of suicide. I answered that I thought there was no point in living. He asked me, “What is the point of dying?”

Insomnia
by Tara

What is the point of living
With the struggle for sleep?
But what is the point of dying?

What is the point of living with a storm twisting inside me, turning itself inside out and leaving
The streets bleeding gold rivers of dirt that seep
Through the sheets with the sweat? A fallen rose, dying

Scatters its petals in the gutter. What is the point of living
With the waters that keep
Rising and flooding the banks of my eyelids, threatening

The lowland cottage that I built inside myself, seeping
Up through the floors, ruining the ribbons that I keep
Tucked away in drawers, ruining the snapshots of summer dying

Into fall and winter? What’s the point of living
In the deserted streets of my mind, where I weep
And wander searching

For torn packets of sugar, scattering
Themselves in the wind, searching for fragments that leap
From my fingertips, searching with the sound of lightning dying

In the distance? What is the point of living
With the cockroaches that creep
Down the walls of this tiny room inside my heart, crawling

Across my skin? It’s 3 a.m., time for housecleaning.
The pile of dishes inside the sink is deep.
I toss out the tulips dying

On the windowsill, and I struggle to keep
the conversation in mind about the urge to leap.
Perhaps the point of living
Is to struggle to the point of dying.

History

Flowers from clay and metal

My great-grandmother had a younger brother who volunteered for the Iowa National Guard just after the Pancho Villa expedition into Mexico. After America became embroiled in World War I, he was sent to Europe to fight in the trenches. He was injured in July of 1918 and died from his injuries in France, where he is buried.

Since learning about him, I have been researching his life and experiences. He wrote many letters home which have been saved for posterity.

Recently I watched a film, They Shall Not Grow Old, by Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame. It is an incredible movie. It is about the First World War, using film recorded more than a hundred years ago during the war. The soldiers come to life. It is amazing the technology and techniques used to make the documentary.

It inspires me to create similar projects of my own. I want to tell the story of great-great-uncle who died in France. I want the world to know.

In Flanders Fields

BY JOHN MCCRAE

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
        In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
        In Flanders fields.