In a limited pilot program, eight Native American poets may be heard reading their work in the galleries of Harvard University’s anthropology museum, the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology.
Visitors may borrow a small player to listen to the evocative recordings while wandering among the museum’s Native American galleries. Subjects range from grandparents and making snowshoes to the ancient Anasazi and even to museum visitors themselves. The poems are drawn from a powerful new anthology, New Poets of Native Nations edited by Heid E. Erdrich (Graywolf Press, July 2018). The playlist was selected by a group six reviewers, five of whom are Native American.
“Native American poets have always grounded us with their work. They have allowed us to be immersed in their cultural knowing and ways of being through their voices and their words. This project is grounding Native objects on display at the Peabody to contemporary lived cultures, knowledge, and experience. Every visitor to the Native American galleries will have the opportunity through this project to see, hear, and feel the living cultures of many of the items on display,” said Shelly C. Lowe, Executive Director of the Harvard University Native American Program, which is jointly sponsoring the Native American Poets Playlist with Harvard’s Woodberry Poetry Room and the Peabody Museum.
Native American Poets Playlist: Poems in the Gallery debuts on October 1, shortly before Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Cambridge on October 8—celebrated as the federal holiday Columbus Day—and will remain available through November 30, 2018. The museum is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
A free companion evening program, New Poets of Native Nations, will be offered Wednesday, October 3 featuring Heid E. Erdrich and poets Tacey M. Atsitty and Eric L. Gansworth.
“I believe that the installation will—as a poet once said—'companion [the Peabody’s collections] with additional life’ and deepen the dimensions that are already present in this remarkable space,” said Christina Davis, Curator of Poetry at the Woodberry Poetry Room. “Since its inception in the 1870s, recording technology has had a complex relationship with the preservation of voices and cultures: Its very ‘conservative’ nature has sometimes been antithetical to the vitality, variation, and diversity of what it has sought to conserve, understand, and transmit. The staff of the Peabody Museum and HUNAP respected this from the outset.”
Featured Poems and Poets
- “Theory Doesn’t Live Here,” Gwen Nell Westerman (Dakota)
- Excerpt from “Nature Poem,” Tommy Pico (Kumeyaay)
- “Winiiam Aagimeke/William Making Snowshoes,” Margaret Noodin (Anishinaabe)
- “It Goes Something Like This,” Eric Gansworth (Onondaga)
- “Anasazi,” Tacey M. Atsitty (Diné)
- “American Arithmetic,” Natalie Diaz (Mojave)
- “Not Just Anybody Can Have One,” Trevino L. Brings Plenty (Minneconjou Lakota)
- “Warming,” dg nanouk okpik (Inupiat-Inuit)