Tiffany Midge Wins Kenyon Review Earthworks Prize for Indigenous Poetry

February 5, 2013
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earthworks_tree_2We are pleased to announce that Tiffany Midge is the winner of the first Kenyon Review Earthworks Prize for Indigenous Poetry for her collection, “The Woman Who Married a Bear.” An enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux, Midge holds an MFA from the University of Idaho. Her first poetry collection Outlaws, Renegades and Saints: Diary of Mixed-up Halfbreed won the Diane Decorah Memorial Poetry Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas. Her chapbook, Guiding the Stars to their Campfire, Driving the Salmon to their Beds was published by Gazoobi Tales, and recent poems have been in The Raven Chronicles, Florida Review, No Tell Motel, Quarterly West, South Dakota Review, Yellow Medicine Review, and Drunken Boat.  She divides her time between Moscow, Idaho (Nez Perce country) and Seattle.

Katherine Hedeen and Victor Rodriguez-Nunez, the final judges for the competition, wrote that, “In both content and form, Tiffany Midge’s The Woman who Married a Bear is the work of a mature poet. The collection offers readers an innovative representation of the social and cultural reality of contemporary Native America, in which humor is key. Its images and other poetic devices, as well as language, are singular and always carefully crafted. With this book, Midge undoubtedly establishes herself as one of the most relevant voices of her poetic generation in America.”

Three finalists for the prize were also named: Tacey Atsitty for “Rain Scald,”  Erika Wurth for “A Thousand Horses Out to Sea,”  and Esther Belin for “The Rings around Her Planet.” According to Janet McAdams, Earthworks founding editor, “The competition received submissions from Indigenous writers all over the world. The scope and quality of the work was extraordinary.”

Midge will give a reading at Kenyon College later this spring.

The Sentinel

by Tiffany Midge

In many tribes the owl has a sinister meaning. Among the Sioux, the owl guards the entrance to the Milky Way over which the souls of the dead must pass to reach the spirit land.
—Charles G. Leland, 1883

I shuttle swarms from the west,
                          serpentine, winged—

their humming like insects elegant
                          in frequencies. Their touch

is like alcohol meeting the tongue, a lazy dissolve
                          into a blue lake of frozen space,

the vivid fading of soluble oils
                          into charcoaled, tinctured ash.

Fresco of souls. The gate latches like the jawbone
                          of a lynx and I open it,

talon to iron, claw to puzzled fret, eternal lock.
                          The ones who were astonished

by the opiate pull of music,
                          rhapsodic as insects telling stories

of serpents and wings—
                          are the hardest spirits to cross over.

The ones born in fury, motherless,
                          neglected, cross like water

spilling over alkaline flats;
                          the dry earth and salt-thirst

of their lives compels them to submit so easily,
                          too easily.

There are the dark ones, the blue-black veils
                          schooled in the arts of deception;

refuse of the stars’ chance conceptions—
                          their dying breath, frail embers,

insignificant mewling, spitting the humans up
                          in a gurgle of cream. Immense, constant,

golden-eye vigilant by what malevolence imagines,
                          I scout them across.

I patrol the hollows of the night, I usher the tattooed-dead
                          in the grayest hours before dawn.

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