(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Trailing You, by mixed-blood Native American Kimberly Blaeser, begins and ends on the issue of identity. In between, the poems explore and articulate what it means to be Native American and a writer. In the preface, Blaeser announces, “My writing becomes an act that re-creates me.” The closing biographical note quotes her saying, “In both my creative and scholarly work I hope to explore the way writing can cross the boundaries of print, seeking not to report but to engender life, seeking to understand and enact the ways of survival.” This boundary crossing is present in the first poem, “Speaking Those Names.” The poet acknowledges the importance of the oral tradition and of relationships to her sense of identity. The poem begins and ends with “aloud,” as Blaeser accentuates the importance of the spoken word to knowing and “claiming myself.”

As is the case with other contemporary texts by Native Americans, Trailing You makes clear that articulating identity is bound up in knowing the connections between oneself, others, and the natural world. Memory enables the poet to transcend linear time and rediscover those connections. Poetic utterance animates such connections for narrator, poet, and audience. Thus, a poem like “Rituals, Yours—and Mine” dissolves the boundaries of the present moment to celebrate connection with a loved one. The poem stresses the importance of connection to the poet’s sense of self....

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(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Suggested Readings

Allen, Paula Gunn. The Sacred Hoop. Boston: Beacon Press, 1992.

Blaeser, Kimberly. “Native Literature: Seeking a Critical Center.” In Looking at the Words of Our People. Penticton, British Columbia, Canada: Theytus Books, 1993.

Vizenor, Gerald. The People Named the Chippewa. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984.