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Songs, Blood Deep (Paperback)
"The poems are quiet and powerful, understated and deeply moving."--Carter Revard, author of How the Songs Come Down: New & Selected Poems
What flows deep from the heart songs of
these poems is Gwen Westerman's proud and profound engagement with and
transmission of closely held cultural values of the Dakota people.
Originating from the prairies of the Great Plains, this is a
collection that affirms a passion for family, community, and the
environment. Westerman draws upon both English and the Dakota
language to celebrate the survival of her people and articulate the
conflicts of the past and present, so that an enriched future will
endure. The long opening poem reclaims the Mississippi River as a sacred resource, "In the beginning/de Dakota Makoce/this was a Dakota place./The water was pure." Historical
misinformation about the First Peoples is unmasked, the record set
straight apart from how explorers and conquering armies have wrongly
portrayed the past. Herein life-affirming words are
conveyed from grandmother, to mother, to children and offered as a
gift to the reader, "This is my give-away--to touch what is good in you/with words your heart can hear."
About the Author
Gwen Nell Westerman is a poet, a visual artist, and a scholar. Her roots are deep in the landscape of the tallgrass prairie and reveal themselves in her art and writing. A member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, she lives in southern Minnesota, as did her father's Dakota people. Her mother's family is from the Flint District of the Cherokee Nation, and Gwen is also a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. Neither of her parents spoke English when they were sent to boarding schools as small children, so she knows the important way language shapes who we are. She was appointed as the Poet Laureate of Minnesota in 2021.Her poetry is included in Native Truths: Our Voices, Our Stories at the Field Museum in Chicago, and has appeared recently in Yellow Medicine Review (Fall 2022); When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through: A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry (2020); POETRY Magazine (2019); and New Poets of Native Nations: 21 Poets of the 21st Century (2018).Her award-winning visual art is included in Quiltfolk Issue 13--Minnesota (2019) and Sewing & Survival: Native American Quilts from 1880-2022 by Teresa Duryea Wong. Her quilts are in the permanent collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, the Great Plains Art Museum, The Heritage Center of the Red Cloud Indian School, and The University Art Galleries at the University of South Dakota.
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