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Village Boy: Poems of Cultural Identity Paperback – September 4, 2014
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About the Author
Robert Davis Hoffmann is a Tlingit artist and carver from the Tlingit Indian village of Kake, Alaska. He describes the sources behind his carving and poetry this way: "My desire to create come from a drive to connect my past to the present, stated in my poem 'Saginaw Bay': "...I keep going back, I keep trying to see myself against all this history..." When I create new forms out of the old, I bridge the past with the present. His poems have been featured in the following anthologies: Into the Storm, Orca Press, 1984; In the Dreamlight: Twenty- One Alaskan Writers, Copper Canyon Press, 1984; Harper’s Anthology of Twentieth Century Native American Poetry, Harper & Row, 1988; Dancing on the Rim of the World: An Anthology of Contemporary Northwest Native American Writing, The University of Arizona Press, 1990; Raven Tells Stories: An Anthology of Alaskan Native Writing, The Greenfield Review Press, 1991; Strong Hearts: Native American Visions and Voices, The Aperture Foundation, 1995; Alaska Native Writers, Storytellers, and Orators: The Expanded Edition, Alaska Quarterly Review, 1999; Native Universe: Voices of Indian America, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, 2004. He was the featured writer in Alaska Quarterly Review, Vol. 26, 2009. A book of his poems, SoulCatcher, was published by Raven's Bones Press of Sitka, Alaska in 1986. He continues to produce his artwork and writing, while working seasonally at the historic Sheldon Jackson Museum in Sitka. He lives in Sitka with his wife, a gardener and companion. His artwork may be seen at http://tlingitart.com
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I'm assuming a lot of the work is autobiographical, as Hoffman talks about his own experiences of fitting into two cultures. He also talks about his extended family, the stripping of culture, and stories passed down through the generations such as those of Raven the creator. While some of the poems are certainly poignant, it's not a depressing book. There is a lot of reflection, food for thought and beautiful language. For example, in Part 8 of 'Saginaw Bay': '... I might write a book / In it I would tell how we are pulled in so many directions, / how our lives are fragmented with so many gaps.' Or the poem 'Division': 'The geodetic map's accurate quadrants make plain / the plots that cut the tribal houses apart. / The clansman accepts his lot. / Surveyors diagram invisible lines like intent palm readers. / They turn the men to grains way down there / by the red ink.'
This is a little book that packs a punch. I'd like to read through the poems again to think more about them. Recommended for anyone who's interested in a different perspective on culture.