Column: Moonlight Over StoneLast weekend’s Native poetry and music event “Moonlight Over Stone: Poetry in Sacred Places” was a treat to attend.
Last weekend’s Native poetry and music event “Moonlight Over Stone: Poetry in Sacred Places” was a treat to attend.
It was held at the American Indian Community Housing Organization’s beautifully remodeled Trepanier Hall, which adjoins the Gimaajii Mino Bimaadiziwin building (the old YWCA building.)
It is a wonderful example of community collaboration. For me, it was quite an experience and gift to be part of the program with Oneida poet Roberta Hill and the Fond du Lac-Duluth area Oshkii Giizhig woman singers. The event was organized by Duluth Poet Laureate Deb Cooper and sponsored by the Friends of the Duluth Public Library, Duluth Public Arts Commission, Arrowhead Reading Council, the English Departments of UMD and the College of St. Scholastica, Lake Superior College, Clover Valley Press, and AICHO.
It was exciting and fun to watch people enter the doors to Trepanier Hall and look around at the fresh and gorgeous newness of the place. Many who came were our friends, families, and supporters/appreciators of music and poetry (it was a pleasure to see my nephew Michael and his friend Angel walk in).
They looked at the art on the walls, visited with us, and bought our books. The gracious AICHO staff had prepared for us some very pretty and delicious chocolate-dipped strawberries, homemade truffles, bars and punch.
The Oshkii Giizhig Singers is a group of Native American women from the Fond du Lac and Duluth area who “sing to empower Anishinaabe women to use their voice in a good way” (from their website). Organized by Lyz Jaakola, a UMD alum who teaches at the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, the Oshkii Giizhig ladies sing and play hand drums at many events. Their first CD, “It’s a New Day for Love,” received the Native American Music Award in 2009. The ladies’ voices are quite diverse and quite beautiful to listen to. My young cousin Darcey is a longtime member of Oshkii Giizhig, which in English means “New Day.”
My part in “Moonlight Over Stone” was the reading of some of my poems and a little from my book “The Dance Boots.” I began by telling the audience that I had been there, about a hundred feet away, before I was born, that my mother’s baby shower had been held in the old YWCA, now the Gimaaji building. We laughed a little about that, enjoying the sacredness of places where we live and breathe throughout our lives as well as before and afterwards. I enjoyed very much being a part of this!
Roberta Hill read several poems, including some from her new poetry collection “Cicadas,” recently released by Holy Cow! Press. Her earlier books of poetry, “Star Quilt” and “Philadelphia Flowers” were also published by Holy Cow! Press. I am a longtime fan of Roberta’s “uniquely Oneida-borne and traveler-graced poetics” (quote by Allsion Hedge Coke) and was touched that she ended her Duluth reading/presentation with a sweet and comforting poem about her late cat, which she kindly chose to read for me because I had told her over supper that I was worried about my kitty’s health.
Before Roberta Hill read her first poem, she told the audience that the subjects and topics of the Oshkii Giizhig ladies’ songs and my readings converged and blended with what she had brought to read, though none of us had planned that ahead of time. As she read, her poetry completed what I pictured as the third strand of a form of storytelling through music and word taking the form of a braid. We readers, singers and audience were part of this.
The remodeling of the old YWCA into an attractive apartment building, with such a fine community facility as the remodeled Trepanier Hall auditorium, dresses up downtown while it provides a wonderful location for events such as “Moonlight Over Stone.” We will surely see opportunities for many more in days to come.
Migwech to the organizations that worked so well together to make “Moonlight over Stones” possible, and migwech to those who attended to listen, think, and speak with us afterwards.
Monthly columnist Linda LeGarde Grover is a professor of American Indian studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth, an award-winning writer and a member of the Bois Forte Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.