Saturday, March 23, 2013

Shedding Skinns - Four Sioux Poets

My two friends from the Leonard Peltier chapter gave me ‘Shedding skins’ a poetry book by four Sioux poets. The book is introduced and edited by Adrian C. Louis. After reading their poetry a couple of times I know I am charmed by the authors different approaches whereas the subject matter of the four poets seems similar. Trevino L. Brings Plenty, Steve Pacheco, Joel Waters and Luke Warm Water deal with the realities of reservation life and of being an urban Indian. Notwithstanding the comparable experiences and circumstances on reservations of the northern Plains or the cities they roamed or lived in, they have each found their own voice. Their different life experiences, development and style, even when referring to the same external circumstances and situations lead to a common thread and attitude of ‘survival’. You’ll find classical elements of native American poetry like humor and raw honesty. The writing skills of these four poets are abundantly clear, some veer a bit more to the academic, others incorporate elements of slam poetry and performance art.

Trevinio L. Brings Plenty starts out with a fun poem about white prejudices: spirituality, beautiful hair, tell me a sacred story, connection to the earth... So the reader warned. He writes about too young alcoholic mothers, the destroyed hope of the new generation, living off of the city. He sees reality as it is, sees what it does to the people and is not judgmental when people can’t escape from their situation of poverty.
Steve Pacheco starts out with a return to the reservation of a soldier in his fatigues. Diabetes is another all too familiar subject. Discovering that it runs in the family because of the commodity cheese, and the rest of government issued fat, preservatives and salt. His description of prairie winters in the house has a wry humor. He knows the littered streets of cities with loners and bastards. Great stuff.
Joel Waters titles speak for them self: Devil’s Playground, The Outhouse, Wannabe. The poems that haunts me are Cherry and The Cigarette Burns... Beautiful in it’s horror of rape and ridicule and the aftermath of that.
Luke Warm Water is maybe the most critical of the four poets. In his poetry we hear and feel the kids in ‘the backseat of a rusted nest one-eyed Chevy’ He must have felt the pain of the loss of many people whatever the reasons: sickness, alcoholism, suicide. This all thanks to 'Welfare Bliss’
The book is an important and good read.

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