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2010 Introduction by Gloria Emerson
I owned a coffee house in Shiprock, NM, on the Diné Reservation from 2004-2008. Customers poured out their stories as we poured coffee. Some stories were poetic, others plain scary, but most were instructive. There were stories of alcoholism, domestic violence, and yes, there were some bad awful stories, filled with platitudes, self-absorption. I heard stories laced with the beauty and roughness of rez life.
We also organized poetry readings through the coffee house. Though the earliest readings were not well attended, the final readings packed the coffee house. An elderly electrician wanted to know if we sold CDs of the coffee house poets. As spoken word, poetry parallels our oral traditions; it stands to reason, then, that if CDs were made available, those of us who live in rural isolation would prize them.
Story forwards our past… I miss the stories and the rez poetry readings, and when TCJ invited me to write this introduction, I eagerly accepted. Reading student submissions is like reading the pulse of student creativity. TCJ issued a call for entries in three genres: poetry, memoir, and fiction.
Brian Sloan’s first place memoir, “Where Are We Going?,” is an uncommon inter-generational story. I would have loved to have heard Brian read this story over a rez cappuccino.
I smiled at Desirae Gagnon’s hero in “My Sweetest Victory,” which took a first place in fiction, I remember carrying a battered, papier mâché project to school after being pushed around by bullies. (Or perhaps I was the bully?)
Reading second place fiction writer Jamie Figueroa’s “Good Hair” made my scalp hurt! I wondered how I would have reacted to having my head yanked about for nine hours by a hairdresser extending my locks by adding someone else’s hair to my scalp hair. Figueroa’s story is a modern kind of scalping.
Third place fiction writer Larry D. Madden, Jr., describes harsh rez realities in “Indun Love” and his story reminds us of our relentless struggles with addictions, alcoholism, and drugs.
Striking a balance with all occupants of this continent is the issue in Marvin Ashley’s honorable mention fiction, “The Black-Footed Ferret.” As I write this, I sit at our farm house gazing north over brown fields. I spot many a prairie dog. Surely they know that the farmer is back after some years away in school. Change is afoot, they must know. How do we humans honor the space of the ferret, the prairie dog? Our father used to say, “They have a right to live.”
Poetry organizes the tangle of reality with dreams… Seven students, representing five colleges, received poetry awards in the poetry category.
While reading the winning poetry entries, I shivered in a cold spring. Melanie Howick Erickson’s “Waiting for Spring” won a first place award and held special meaning for me as I reached for another shawl.
Although most college courses facilitate academic growth, I believe courses in traditional culture, language, history, creative writing, English, and art help harness our creative energies together with the ancient wisdom, which are our legacies. Sometimes we forget the gift we all carry. I suggest time for doodling, artwork, for dream time, journaling. These tools are essential in our paths of self-discovery and support tentative steps up the ladder to selfactualization. With them, we move from ego to community to tribe and beyond.
In conclusion, I ask you students to think about translating your work to other creative forms, such as script writing, film directing, community art installations, performance arts, recording your stories for elders, reading poems to CD’s. Those of us who live in isolation on reservations eagerly await your gifts of creative expression as they bridge time spans between generations.
Gloria J. Emerson (Navajo) is a visual artist, educator, consultant, and poet living in Shiprock, NM.
My Sweetest Victory By Desirae Grignon
Good Hair By Jaime Figueroa
Indun Love By L. Madden, Jr.
The Black Footed Ferret By Marvin Ashley
A Wolf Named Bear By Emanuel Red Bear III
Kaleidoscope By Christopher Marshall
The Last Battle By Kari Eneas
Waiting for Spring By Melanie Erickson
They Tell Me By Shaina Nez
Bittersweet By Ruth McLain
Wicasa By Lynn Cuny
Apple Delicious By Marvin Stops
Foresight of Hope By Kari Eneas
Where are we going? By Brian Sloan
The Perfect Recipe By Chamisa Edmo
The Loyal Desert Flower By Joey Dunn
Pejuta Wakan – Sacred Medicine By Brandon LaMere
Iron Horse By Schyler Martin
What Goes Around Comes Around By Brandon LaMere
Old Soul By Maranee Bowen