“Poem,” by Joan Naviyuk Kane


[From the WVFC Poetry Archives, first published November 19, 2019]




















Copyright © 2019 by Joan Naviyuk Kane. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Another Bright Departure from Cut Bank Books and can be ordered on the press website.

Listen to the author reading her poem here.


Joan Naviyuk Kane is Inupiaq, with family from King Island (Ugiuvak) and Mary’s Igloo, Alaska. A 2019-2020 Hilles Bush Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Kane was a 2018 Guggenheim Fellow in Poetry. Her publications include the essay collection A Few Lines in the Manifest (2018) and the poetry books and chapbooks The Cormorant Hunter’s Wife (2009), Hyperboreal (2013), The Straits (2015), Milk Black Carbon (2017), Sublingual (2018), and Another Bright Departure (2019). She has received the Whiting Writer’s Award, the Donald Hall Prize in Poetry, the American Book Award, the Alaska Literary Award, the United States Artists Foundation Creative Vision Award, and fellowships and residencies from the Rasmuson Foundation, the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, the School for Advanced Research, the Aninstantia Foundation, the Hermitage Artist Retreat, and the Lannan Foundation. Kane has been a finalist for the PEN USA Literary Award, the Poetry Foundation’s Ruth Lilly Prize, and the Dorset Prize. She raises her sons as a single mother in Cambridge and was on the founding faculty of the graduate creative writing program at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Joan Naviyuk Kane discusses her work with the Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress here. PBS News Hour explores Kane’s use of language and features her reading a poem in English and Inupiaq here.


Poet’s Note

I wrote this poem while composing an essay for Shapes of Native Nonfiction, an anthology just out from the University of Washington Press. The essay does a couple of things, among them making distinctions between two types of traditional stories in the Ugiuvak (King Island) tradition. The poem concerns itself with vacancies of several kinds but does not attempt to compensate for them.

Three other members of the King Island Native Community traveled with me to Ugiuvak in 2014. Ugiuvak has long been home to millions of seabirds. However, with climate change and several successive years of massive seabird die-offs of Bering Sea species, I’m not certain the island thrums with life in the way it once did.


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