Transcript: Poems on Air, Episode 87 - Shonda Buchanan

The following transcript is provided for accessibility only. Layout, formatting, and typography of poems may differ from the original text. We recommend referring to the original, published works when possible to experience the poems as intended by their authors.

[Music intro]

LYNNE THOMPSON: Hello! My name is Lynne Thompson, Poet Laureate for the City of Los Angeles, and I’m so happy to welcome listeners to this installment of Poems on Air, a podcast supported by the Los Angeles Public Library. Every week, I’ll present the work of poets I admire, poets who you should know, and poets who have made a substantial and inimitable contribution to the art and craft of poetry.

LYNNE THOMPSON: As Poems on Air closes out the month of November, it’s important to acknowledge that this month we celebrate Native American Heritage Month. One poet who writes about what it means to be a Native American is L.A. poet Shonda Buchanan. A descendant of African Americans, Indian Americans, and Europeans, her work explores identity, ethnicity, landscape and loss in collections of poetry and memoir, including Equipoise: Poems from Goddess Country, among others. Buchanan has won numerous awards, including a Fellowship from the City of Los Angeles. Currently, she serves as the President of the Board of Trustees at Beyond Baroque, a literary center in Venice, California.

LYNNE THOMPSON: Today’s poem is "Black Indian" by Shonda Buchanan.

"Black Indian"

All my journeys begin
in north carolina
without my knowing it;
Black Indians pushed like September crab shells
on an angry winter shore,
swept up i the storm of Moby Dick’s adventure.
The literature of us wiped and creamed
against an outcrop of colonizing rocks.
Our acorn, our buckskin, our dreaming, crushed. Corrected.
Under the weight of change, we became husks of ourselves.
We were Ueusiok, fading in Cohere ghosts on a river bank.
We were red black wolves chewing our wrists from the arm.
We fought next to the Tuscarora,
beading ourselves into a story of lush rivers
and swampland and defeat,
unaware of the coming. Saddles and horses and silver in white mouths,
sweeping us up in their fingers like dust in the corners
of black powder pouches.
We ran. My family escaped
from that swampland in sampson county into tennessee,
to indiana,
then michigan.
Indian, Mulatto, Colored.
We planted ourselves next to the Pottawatomie
and Ottawa like cornstalks.
We grew
into a farmhouse on fire.

LYNNE THOMPSON: The Los Angeles Poet Laureate was created as a joint program between the City’s Department of Cultural Affairs and the Los Angeles Public Library and this podcast is available wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for listening!

[Music outro]

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  • DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a certified or verbatim transcript, but rather represents only the context of the class or meeting, subject to the inherent limitations of real-time captioning. The primary focus of real-time captioning is general communication access and as such this document is not suitable, acceptable, nor is it intended for use in any type of legal proceeding. Transcript provided by the author.