I have been reading a lot of indigenous poetry since November is Native American Heritage Month.
One thing that struck me is the Native American poet’s need to adopt Western poetics- rhyme, rhythm, meter, formal stanza- in order to find acceptance with a white reading audience.
The poems of Alexander Posey (yes, that is his given name, and not a pen name) interested me in the way they attempted to convey a compromise- a blending of native vision, images with the demand of conforming to colonial forms of expressions. His poems are competent and quaint but the form constrains the true voice striving to be heard underneath. He was known as being a humorist, so I suspect that some of his poetry is really a hidden joke. A Creek reader would easily see the humor and satire—Posey did establish the first Native American daily newspaper, the Eufaula Indian Journal.
In my poem, I attempt to rewrite one of Posey’s better known poems, My Hermitage, in what I think would be his true Native American poetic voice, if stripped of all forms of residual colonial expression. It tries to duplicate the Indian vision in a form that both respects and conforms to that voice. I see it as drifting air, flowing with the nature and spirit that is all around him. There is an Asian quality to that vision, almost haiku like in its expression. In essence, it’s a translation, sharing the Indian voice, with those striving to understand the essential language of Native American existence.
Here is the link to Alexander Posey’s Wikipedia entry:
Here is My Hermitage in its entirety:
Between me and the noise of strife
Are walls of mountains set with pine;
The dusty, care-strewn paths of life
Lead not to this retreat of mine.
I hear the morning wind awake
Beyond the purple height,
And, in the growing light,
The lap of lilies on the lake.
I live with Echo and with Song,
And Beauty leads me forth to see
Her temple’s colonnades, and long
Together do we love to be.
The mountains wall me in, complete,
And leave me but a bit blue
Above. All year, the days are sweet—
How sweet! And all the long nights thro’
I hear the river flowing by
Along its sandy bars;
Behold, far in the midnight sky,
An infinite of stars!
‘Tis sweet, when all is still,
When darkness gathers round,
To hear, from hill to hill,
The far, the wandering sound.
The cedar and the pine
Have pitched their tents with me.
What freedom vast is mine!
What room! What mystery!
Upon the dreamy southern breeze,
That steals in like a laden bee
And sighs for rest among the trees,
Are far-blown bits of melody.
What afterglows the twilight hold,
The darkening skies along!
And O, what rose-like dawns unfold,
That smite the hills to song!
High in the solitude of air,
The gray hawk circles on and on,
Till, like a spirit soaring there,
His image pales and he is gone!