Let’s start the NEW YEAR with giving praise and voice to the poets, mystics, artists and friends who changed my life…
My friend Kim Shuck is a poet, weaver, beadwork master artist (link http://www.kimshuck.com/beadwork.php ) and fellow traveler. Her ancestors were and are Tsalagi, Sauk and Fox and Polish, for the most part. She earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in weaving in 1998 from San Francisco State University, her hometown.
Her work generally touches on poetry, art, math, storytelling, humor, and whatever else seems useful at the time. AND she publishes RABBIT AND ROSE, an online journal. (LINK: http://www.rabbitandrose.com/current.php) (You can find me in the very first issue with my poem JUMP)
Kim, thanks for agreeing to talk about your new book CLOUDS RUNNING IN (Taurean Horn Press, 2014). I interviewed you about your book “Smuggling Cherokee” a few years back for Talking Stick in NYC. ( I love that book so much.) What should we know about this new poetry collection?
I’ve read that every first book is part autobiography, and mine was. I hope that I’m focusing in on the things that I think are important: interpersonal space, a life where Native people aren’t viewed as some kind of mythological group, the small concerns of my day, the larger concerns of my day. The book has some fantastic images in it drawn by the Scottish based artist Marcer Campbell. It’s a more grown up book, I think, more comfortable in it’s own covers.
If ever there was a time when words matter, it is now. What do poets do to address race and ethnicity?
Well, I think that we respond honestly and passionately to what we see as the immediate issues (like my recent poem here about the deaths)
We can be stolen at any age become
Examples a handprint on a
Handprint a fingerprint a case the
Last murdered Native girl before the
Paper was put to bed without mentioning her the
Next execution of a man they were
Frightened of and
Strangling is such an intimate form of killing ask the
People who know they say that you can feel the
Life leaking out with every excited beat of your
Own heart the
Last dead example before the news naps we know that
There is air and sometimes feel the
Blood burst its banks in our eyes and if only we weren’t
Frightening weren’t challenging they wouldn’t have if we could just
Be different be
Different we wouldn’t alchemize into a
Call to arms we wouldn’t be beaten to death less
Crazy less frightening thinner every
Stolen person child and man and I can see
Evidence of air out the window as clear as
Fear as clear as bullets or a chokehold or fists or feet or
Badges or any mark of a very particular
Identity allowed or not
Stolen or not
… My brain leaks words constantly about this sort of thing I can hope that they help other people. Maybe the job of poeting is being willing to learn publicly. It’s what I strive for at least.
You contributed to the anthology I edited CALLED HOME and wrote about your paternal grandmother Evelyn/Patricia, who was an adoptee, and actually a mystery to many, even in her own family. You and your father made some new discoveries about her. Is there anything you can share?
I think that she was a mystery as much to herself as to others. Grandma said a number of things about who her original family was and those things changed from time to time which I now think was because she didn’t really know for certain and as she narrowed it down she shared that information, when I was a kid this just confused me. Now I think I’ve found a new place for her. There is a story that she ended up dating her birth brother and got sent away to school, I don’t know if that one’s true or not but it’s one of the various stories. Hey you know, none of them are around anymore, let’s say that it’s a true story and nod at her fears and tensions. It changed and ruled her life in many ways, that sense of loss. We always thought that hers was an Indian adoption because of how completely tangled the story gets when you go back to the official paperwork, because of where she ended up originally and because a man with the same name, birthplace and birthdate shows up on the rolls. So now that we’ve done some picking around we’ve got Cherokee, Sauk and Fox and Choctaw people ready to say she was one of theirs. I guess it’s better to have surplus than deficit.
Tell us about the Pushcart award?
My poem about my grandma called “In the Walnut Grove”… about her being adopted, though I’m not sure that most readers know that… it’s been nominated for a Pushcart.
In the Walnut Grove
That year the wind took the
Topsoil and the children the
Maps all changed and not
Everyone found a pair of
Magical shoes or good
Company I wonder if she paused
Every time she introduced herself if it
Was a question between her teeth as well the
Taproots that go somewhere
Unknown and we understand that
Every family has stories that are
Painted over there are always
Things hidden in the walls but when all you
Know is the blank wall and the
Hints and suggestions of what might be in there and you
Know, know that all of the expected
Family portraits are in ink only
Visible under a certain moon
[About The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses series, published every year since 1976, is the most honored literary project in America. Since 1976, hundreds of presses and thousands of writers of short stories, poetry and essays have been represented in their annual collections. The Pushcart Prize has been a labor of love and is one of the last surviving literary co-ops from the 60’s and 70’s. LINK: http://www.pushcartprize.com/]
How can people find your new book?
Greetings to you Marcer, and so glad you can answer a few questions. Tell us, how did you hook up with Kim and learn about her writing and poetry?
Meeting Kim was a combination of happy coincidence and pure good fortune. Kim initially contacted me after happening across my website and we very quickly developed a friendship based on a series of intense and for me inspirational conversations covering a good many topics, not least of which included music, painting, poetry and above all a shared passion for storytelling. Our respective backgrounds and life experiences may differ greatly, but we have much in common in terms of creative process. It was a striking common bond that led rapidly into working collaborations.
Do her words help you create a visual?
To begin with, Kim wrote poems as a response to a number of paintings I’d been working on. From there, over the course of a year or so, we discussed the possibility of collaborating on a more expansive project and this is where the idea for Clouds came from. At the outset there were to be no limits on the scope of the work I would produce in response to Kim’s poems, the drawings could be intended to create a visual mood or atmosphere as much as anything and we decided that the title of the book was a perfect starting place, with cloudscapes already featuring large in many of my paintings.
I worked through the drawings back to back over a nine month period. My intention was to allow ideas to suggest themselves as the work progressed with the one rule that there would be no corrections, redrawing or preliminary studies – Kim’s poems alone would inform the drawings, hence choosing the indelible medium of pen and ink.
From beginning to end there wasn’t one particular way of responding to Kim’s written word. In some instances I’ve attempted to capture the mood of a poem that I’ve related to in a very personal way and with other poems the drawing is more directly illustrative. Ultimately I wanted to realise a series of visual impressions; landscapes that would be both consistent and heartfelt; that would compliment and connect directly with Kim’s poetry.
In actual fact this project as a whole has been a joy to undertake because Kim has consistently trusted in my work and given me carte blanche simply to create. There was never a specific brief or list of requirements for me to adhere to and in deliberately allowing me free rein to interpret, react and respond to the poetry, the completed work has an opportunity to take on a life of its own.
Have you worked with other writers?
Perhaps it would be better not to ask this question because my answer is….no. Which sounds rubbish….
Visit Marcer’s website: www.marcercampbell.com
My gratitude to Kim and Marcer for answering some questions. Much love and respect to you both… and if you are interested in Kim’s grandmother’s story in the 2014 anthology CALLED HOME (direct link to buy Kindle version)