Thursday, September 13, 2012


One of the characteristics of Native writing is its immediate engagement with history. A corollary is the simultaneity of past, present, and future. Mi’kmaq Métis author Alice Azure, in her new book Games of Transformation, illustrates the fluidity of time. The entire book is about the pre-contact city Cahokia, a trade city just off the Mississippi River at St. Louis. Over a hundred mounds remain, despite farming.

The poem “Moon of Blinding Snowstarts with a winter scene, then shifts into another dimension. This poem begins with strong imagery, as “snow and sleet whack at my house.” This is a typical Midwestern scene. Then it shifts, in the second stanza, to the time of Cahokia. She describes the winters of those days, and their cost in fuel. This shifts into contemporary worries about the future. As winter season begins in the Midwest, this poem has important alarms for everyone. It also asserts a Native presence. Critic Siobhan Senier writes of Games of Transformation: “she subverts the US national imaginary by calling into being a Native community and a Native future” (MELUS 37.1,2012).

 This is an important book for all who dwell on Earth. It shows an engaged, ethical traveler through all times.

Moon of Blinding Snow

Layers of sweaters don’t keep me warm
as snow and sleet whack at my house.
The cat and I hunker down in front
of our wood-burning fireplace,
while the weatherman announces
record-breaking snow.
After Cahokia’s five thousand campfires
burned day and night for two hundred years,
after the trees were gone from the land,
how did the ancients keep themselves arm?
After the ice caps, ethanol and oil go bust,
will the polar bears, cat and I
be lucky to find enough dry land
to sustain trees and corn—a fire or two?

 Alice Azure’s writings have appeared in a number of journals and anthologies such as The Florida Review; Native Literatures: Generations; and Yellow Medicine Review. Her recent book of poetry Games of Transformation (Chicago: Albatross Press, 2011) won the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers 2012 poetry award. Her memoir, Along Came a Spider (2011), is from Bowman Books. She grew up in the Connecticut River Valley—Cromwell, Connecticut and Springfield, Massachusetts—and earned an M.A. degree in urban and regional planning from the University of Iowa. A Mi’kmaq Métis, her roots are in the Kespu’kwitk District of Nova Scotia. She lives in Maryville, Illinois, close to her four grandchildren. See her website at