Today Heid Erdrich paid a visit to the RRVWP summer institute and I had the opportunity to be a part of the action. We heard her read from all three of her books of poetry... the two out now--Fishing for Myth and The Mother's Tongue and one due out next November. She talked about her inspirations and her revision process and what she tells her students about writing and revision. Edrich's down-to-earth, friendly spirit added to the experience and I was pleased with how willing she was to talk about her poetry and how it was shaped.
I just got my hands on her poems a week ago and I really like Fishing for Myth... of course I love myth and story and legend and so much of that makes its way into the poems. Here's one example.
by Heid E. Erdrich
Tell a child she is composed of parts
(her Ojibway quarters, her half-German heart)
she'll find the existence of harpies easy
to swallow. Storybook children never come close
to her mix, but manticores make great uncles,
Sphinx a cousin she'll allow, centaurs better to love
than boys -- the horse part, at least she can ride.
With a bestiary for a family album she's proud.
Her heap of blankets, her garbage grin, prove
She's descended of bears, her totem, it's true.
And that German witch with the candy roof,
that was her ancestor too. If swans can rain
white rape from heaven, then what is a girl to do?
Believe her Indian eyes, her sly French smile,
Her breast with its veins skim milk blue --
She is the myth that is true.
from Fishing for Myth (p.13)