for Phil Young, my father, Robert Hedge Coke, Whitman, and Hughes
America, I sing back. Sing back what sung you in.
Sing back the moment you cherished breath.
Sing you home into yourself and back to reason.
Oh, before America
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. 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, served as field faculty for the University of Nebraska MFA program and Naropa University, and as Distinguished Writer in Residence at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. She is a founding faculty member of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing and Publishing, and currently teaches at the Red Earth MFA at the University of Oklahoma City.
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)
Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer: A Story of Survival (University of Nebraska Press, 2004)