Monday, February 2, 2009


It's Silent Poetry Reading Day in blogland which gives me a great excuse to talk about River of Words, The Story of William Carlos Williams. I didn't know that Williams was a poet and a doctor until I read this beautiful biography by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet. The spare text and moving collage illustrations made for a winning combination. Last week the book was awarded a Caldecott Honor.

If you're not familiar with Willams' poetry, here's a nibble:

This Is Just To Say
by William Carlos Williams

I have eaten the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
They were delicious
so sweet
and so good

And to close out the post, here's a poem from the Poor Poet.

Identity Crisis

By Shannon Holt

I am 1/32nd Cherokee.
My black hair is proof.
But according to some government man in a suit,
it is not enough.
And when I was fourteen and refused to fill
in the ethnicity bubble
because I didn't know which part of me they wanted,
the Form Lady took one glance at my pale skin
And penciled,

-Which I suppose is true,
but a little unfair
to my Cherokee ancestors
who I know so little about
other than that one fell in love
with a German immigrant so much
that he separated
from his tribe to be with her.

It seems a bit wrong to disregard my grandmother's people
who called themselves
"Black Dutch"
meaning they weren't really Dutch at all,
but possible descendants of gypsies,
(Which is hard to picture
because my grandmother was more like
an olive-skinned June Cleaver
than Esmeralda.)

I guess I'm expected to forget the slave-woman
who lived her life on a plantation in Virginia
but gave birth
to a son
who became educated
and fought next to Swamp Fox in the Revolution.

And then, there is that whole debate
about my great-grandmother's origins-
Was she Italian?
Was she Mexican?
If she was Mexican,
How Mexican was she?
How Mexican does that make me?

Which brings me back to my 1/32nd
Cherokee self-
that according to the people in charge
of these sort of things
say that my 1/32nd is not enough
to be considered Native American.

Which is fine.
I suppose there has to be a
cut-off point.
It might as well stop at me.

But I can't help but wonder,
is an orange still an orange
if you have only one slice?
Does a pomegranate stay a pomegranate
with just two seeds?

Caucasian just doesn't describe
a person like me.

I am a Fruit Salad-
a composition
a medley
of this and that
that does not detract from each other,
but blends
to create
the one
and only

Which means,
I can be
A Fruit Salad Cherokee.

1 comment:

  1. Shannon,
    I'll make you a tribal card! Last year, I found out that I was eligible to join the Shawnee Tribe. My mom's birth mother (Mom was adopted, which is a whole 'nother story) and her family were all on the tribal rolls. That made Mom, then me, then my 3 kids eligible to become card-carrying Native Americans. And we are PROUD!

    Want me to make you a card? I will!

    From Holly A