Thursday, May 19, 2011

Indian Poets

My son is a senior at the University of Kansas. On his way to a degree, he took two poetry classes. He called one day explaining he had to choose a poet to study that semester but he did not know any. My first suggestions were the big guys - Whitman, Eliot - but they were not allowed. I said I would think about it and call him back. As soon as I hung up I knew exactly who he should study: Sherman Alexie, a young Spokane/Couer d'Alene Indian, a very talented writer. I had not read any of Alexie's poetry but I had read several of his books. As luck would have it, Sherman Alexie was on the class list of acceptable poets. I thought if anyone could inspire my Potawatomi son, Sherman Alexie would do so.

It is hard to tell with my son. He would likely not admit outright that he enjoyed Alexie's poetry, but I believe he did. I certainly enjoyed the book my son loaned to me. One assignment was to choose a single poem that, in the students's opinion, best exemplified the poet's philosophy. I was thrilled when I read the poem my son selected. I was impressed with his understanding.

My son took a class this semester that required him to write poetry. I was blown away with his work. It was not surprising because he was born with the soul of a poet. He writes so much better than I do. He writes better than many people who are published. He should be writing all the time. Maybe some day he will be compelled to write and there will be yet another Native American voice added to the world, another young man's unique view shared with a world that has a great need for what is in every poet's heart.

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