Part of a series of pictures depicting Frances Densmore at the Smithsonian Institution in 1916 during a recording session with Blackfoot chief Mountain Chief for the Bureau of American Ethnology.
For the past ten months I’ve been featuring a poem a week by a Minnesota poet. I realized recently that I was drawing exclusively from modern poetry, without looking back on our rich literary history.
To fix that, I picked up my copy of “Where One Voice Ends Another Begins: 150 Years of Minnesota Poetry,” published by MHS Press. As it turns out, this region’s poetry goes back much further than 150 years; Frances Densmore, with assistance from Robert Higheagle, translated song-poems of the Sioux and Chippewa.
Here’s a particularly sweet love poem:
In Her Canoe
In her canoe I see her,
Maiden of my delighted eyes.
I see in the rippling of the water
The trailing light slipped from her paddle blade.
A signal sent to me.
Ah, maiden of my desire,
Give me a place in thy canoe;
Give me the paddle blade,
And you shall steer us away
Wherever you would go!
– “In Her Canoe,” a Chippewa song-poem translated by Frances Densmore, with assistance from Robert Higheagle, as it appears in “Where One Voice Ends Another Begins: 150 Years of Minnesota Poetry,” published by MHS Press. Reprinted here with permission from the publisher.