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About this poet

Kimberly Blaeser was born in Billings, Montana, in 1955. Of Anishinaabe ancestry, she grew up on the White Earth Reservation in northwestern Minnesota and is an enrolled member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. She received a BA from the College of Saint Benedict in 1977 and went on to study at the University of Notre Dame, where she received an MA in 1982 and a PhD in 1990.

Blaeser is the author of Apprenticed to Justice (Salt Publishing, 2007), Absentee Indians and Other Poems (Michigan State University Press, 2002), and Trailing You (Greenfield Review Press, 1994), winner of the Diane Decorah First Book Award from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas.

Allison Hedge Coke writes, “Kim Blaeser is a knock-out poet, bringing boxers to steal hearts, floured fists to punch dough, and a serious sense of familial White Earth beauty, hunger, and humility that’s impossible to put down.”

In 2015, the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters named Blaeser the poet laureate of Wisconsin. Also the recipient of a Wisconsin Arts Board Artist Fellowship, Blaeser is active in several literary and social justice organizations, including the Milwaukee Native American Literary Cooperative. She currently teaches at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee.


Bibliography

Poetry
Apprenticed to Justice (Salt Publishing, 2007)
Absentee Indians and Other Poems (Michigan State University Press, 2002)
Trailing You (Greenfield Review Press, 1994)

Prose
Gerald Vizenor: Writing in the Oral Tradition (University of Oklahoma Press, 2012)

Apprenticed to Justice

The weight of ashes
from burned-out camps.
Lodges smoulder in fire,
animal hides wither
their mythic images shrinking
pulling in on themselves,
all incinerated
fragments
of breath bone and basket 
rest heavy
sink deep
like wintering frogs.
And no dustbowl wind
can lift
this history
of loss.

Now fertilized by generations—
ashes upon ashes,
this old earth erupts.
Medicine voices rise like mists
white buffalo memories
teeth marks on birch bark 
forgotten forms
tremble into wholeness.

And the grey weathered stumps,
trees and treaties
cut down
trampled for wealth.
Flat Potlatch plateaus
of ghost forests
raked by bears
soften rot inward
until tiny arrows of green
sprout
rise erect
rootfed
from each crumbling center.

Some will never laugh
as easily.
Will hide knives
silver as fish in their boots,
hoard names
as if they could be stolen
as easily as land,
will paper their walls
with maps and broken promises,
scar their flesh
with this badge
heavy as ashes.

And this is a poem
for those
apprenticed
from birth.
In the womb
of your mother nation
heartbeats
sound like drums
drums like thunder
thunder like twelve thousand
walking
then ten thousand
then eight
walking away
from stolen homes
from burned out camps
from relatives fallen
as they walked
then crawled
then fell.

This is the woodpecker sound
of an old retreat.
It becomes an echo.
an accounting
to be reconciled.
This is the sound
of trees falling in the woods
when they are heard,
of red nations falling
when they are remembered.
This is the sound
we hear
when fist meets flesh
when bullets pop against chests
when memories rattle hollow in stomachs.    

And we turn this sound
over and over again
until it becomes
fertile ground
from which we will build
new nations
upon the ashes of our ancestors.
Until it becomes
the rattle of a new revolution
these fingers
drumming on keys.

From Apprenticed to Justice (Salt Publishing, 2007). Copyright © 2007 by Kimberly Blaeser. Used with the permission of the author.

From Apprenticed to Justice (Salt Publishing, 2007). Copyright © 2007 by Kimberly Blaeser. Used with the permission of the author.

Kimberly Blaeser

Kimberly Blaeser

Kimberly Blaeser is the author of Apprenticed to Justice (Salt Publishing, 2007). She teaches at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee.

by this poet

poem

Because the smallness of our being
is our only greatness.

Because one night I was in a room
listening until only one heart beat.

Because in these last years I’ve
worn and worn and nearly worn out
my black funeral shoes.

Because the gesture of after words
means the same

poem

 

I.

A soap-opera rising and sinking of bodies,

melt of glaciers, flamboyant sculpture of waves—

west wind at thirty knots

this serial archipelago the drama of centuries.

Forgotten Steamboat Island

swallowed

poem

White Earth Reservation, 1938:
wigwam
peaked lodge
bark house
tipi
log house
tar-paper shack
frame house
u.s. rehabitilation house.
sister hilger
you counted each one—
seventy-one tar-paper shacks,
eight united states rehabilitation