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About this poet

Allison Adelle Hedge Coke was born in Amarillo, Texas, on August 4, 1958, and grew up in North Carolina, Canada, and on the Great Plains. In her initial days of high school, Hedge Coke dropped out and went to work sharecropping tobacco, working fields and waters, and working in factories to support herself. She finished her GED at sixteen years old and went on to study photography, traditional arts, and writing in community education classes at North Carolina State University. Hedge Coke moved to Tennessee and then California, where she studied theater and completed a play, Icicles. She received an AFA in creative writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts, and then took the GRE, skipping her bachelor’s degree to earn an MFA in poetry from Vermont College.

Hedge Coke, who is of Cherokee, Creek, Huron, Metis, French Canadian, Lorraine, Portuguese, Irish, English, and Scottish heritage, frequently addresses issues of culture, prejudice, indigenous rights, the environment, peace, violence, abuse, and labor in her poetry and other creative works. She has authored five full-length books of poetry: Burn (Mad Hat Press, 2015); Streaming (Coffee House Press, 2014); Blood Run (Salt Publishing, 2007), winner of the 2007 Wordcraft Writer of the Year Award; Off-Season City Pipe (Coffee House Press, 2005), winner of the 2005 Wordcraft Writer of the Year Award; and Dog Road Woman (Coffee House Press, 1997), winner of the 1998 American Book Award, as well as a chapbook, The Year of the Rat (Grimes Press, 2000). In 2004, she also published a memoir, Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer: A Story of Survival (University of Nebraska Press), about her cultural heritage, her childhood growing up with a schizophrenic mother, and her struggles with substance abuse and domestic violence.

A literary activist, Hedge Coke works with incarcerated youth, underserved indigenous youth, and elders, among others, and founded and directs the annual Honoring the Sandhill Crane Migration Literary Retreat and Festival in Kearney, Nebraska.

Her honors include the King-Chávez-Parks award, the Sioux Falls Mayor’s Award for Excellence in Literary Arts, and the National Mentor of the Year award, among others.

Hedge Coke has held two endowed chairs at academic institutions, is field faculty for the University of Nebraska MFA program and Naropa University, and is currently a Distinguished Writer in Residence at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Streaming (Coffee House Press, 2015)
Burn (Mad Hat Press, 2014)
Blood Run (Salt Publishing, 2007)
Off-Season City Pipe (Coffee House Press, 2005)
Dog Road Woman (Coffee House Press, 2007)
The Year of the Rat (Grimes Press, 2000)

Nonfiction

Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer: A Story of Survival (University of Nebraska Press, 2004)

Street Confetti

Allison Adelle Hedge Coke, 1958
for Stephanie


Right across Turk Street, south side intersection Hyde,
in the tenement where 911 won’t summon up a blue,
a man beats his woman,
the twentieth time or more, their kids bawling.
Over here, in this flat up on the third,
above blazing red neon signs highlighting
the Triple Deuce Club low below, I listen while
wired white hippies move furniture across checkered tiles 
other side my sister’s arched plaster ceiling till way past 3 a.m.
Shuffling with a sofa as if rearranging the heavens in my mind.

Me, I sleep. Or try to. Nothing else I can do.
Each day I slip off and out looking for work, gliding into the
Streets of San Francisco
winding, curving, like turbulence.
Daybreak brings sweet Cambodian street children out
into a Feinstein-era playground,
still filled with hypes, winos, yellow-green from the night before,
still smelling like piss and lizard.

These kids though, they climb atop steel swing-set bars,
fifteen, twenty feet high,
as if they’re walking joint lines in concrete.
Easy balance, Mohawk grace.
Their sisters provoke a paper war in the street,
     closed-off        block party.
     Paper flying by, I
catch a piece, fold it origamically, create
a mock financial pyramid, toss it back,
watch little girls with black shiny ponytails make confetti
for this ongoing ticker-tape parade,
right across Turk Street, intersection Hyde.

From Off-Season City Pipe by Allison Adelle Hedge Coke. Copyright © 2005 by Allison Adelle Hedge Coke. Published by Coffee House Press. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

From Off-Season City Pipe by Allison Adelle Hedge Coke. Copyright © 2005 by Allison Adelle Hedge Coke. Published by Coffee House Press. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Allison Adelle Hedge Coke

Allison Adelle Hedge Coke

Allison Adelle Hedge Coke was born in Amarillo, Texas, on August 4, 1958, and grew up in North Carolina, Canada, and on the Great Plains. In her initial days of high school, Hedge Coke dropped out and went to work sharecropping tobacco, working fields and waters, and working in factories to support herself. She finished her GED at sixteen years old and went on to study photography, traditional arts, and writing in community education classes at North Carolina State University.