Poet Joan Naviyuk Kane brings her deeply internalized knowledge of place into her works. One reviewer states that hers is the “eye which sees itself as part of the landscape” as opposed to an eye that tries to name and in the process, interpret, what it sees.
Joan Kane credits the syncopated rhythms and unexpected cadences that make the songs of King Island people world‐renowned as inspiration that lends complex structure and phrasing to her poetry. “I make poetry with a focus on dense sonics, unconventional syntax, and evocative images while engaging the questions of audience, adaption and resilience,” said Kane. “My work originates with my lineage, but refers outwards.”
“The Cormorant Hunter’s Wife,” her debut collection, was published by Northshore Press and was awarded the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Donald Hall Prize in Poetry. “’The Cormorant Hunter’s Wife’ is a groundbreaking collection of poems made of one long breath,” said NACF National Leadership Council member and celebrated author Joy Harjo (Mvskoke). “The breath is enough to carry you the distance it takes to fly to the moon and return in one long winter night. I have been looking for the return of such a poet. Joan Kane crafts poems as meticulous as snowflakes. She is visionary and the poems carry this vision with solid grace.”
Kane is the recipient of several prestigious awards including the Whiting Writer’s award and the Rasmuson Foundation artist fellowship. Support from a 2013 NACF Artist Fellowship in Literature allowed her to complete two full-length collections of poetry, “Hyperboreal,” and “Then the World Was Milk.” “Hyperboreal” has been published as part of the Pitt Poetry Series by the University of Pittsburgh Press as the recipient of the Donald Hall Prize from AWP. “Then the World Was Milk” has been accepted for fall 2014 publication as part of the Alaska Literary Series by the University of Alaska Press.
In her fellowship year, Kane participated in 10 readings, three collaborations, and four symposia reaching over 1,715 audience members and participants. “Beyond supporting me in producing new publications, the NACF Artist Fellowship allowed me to build the professional confidence to seek funding for future work, including a significant source of support through United States Artists to pursue a trip to my home village of King Island in the summer of 2014,” said Kane. “The fellowship allowed me to take two online workshops in fiction and dramatic writing, work part-time and devote the rest of my time to accepting reading and teaching opportunities across Alaska and the United States.”
I would have been a girl bound in stone, quartz—
Coarse, cracked, and whitening as bone.
Os, echoing away from twin calderas
But for a long string which drew me to the sea.
A sixteen‐strand sinnet lain on sand
Marks the rivers unbraiding, knotted,
And plaiting their skeins towards the basin,
Where a red‐throated loon, shot through the eye,
Yields his largest rib for an awl.
At our junction a bunch of feathers.
I take a brittle weed in leaf, thumb chert blade
Gray. Our junction a fumarole; when it smokes,
I lose sight of the girl. It is nothing to know
The rift and buckle—
To witness the sun eclipsed for days on end,
The bruised fields redden and freeze.
The sea, then, our garden: a film,
Char of oil on water. A hiss of tides
Run up to that which was burning
And has gone out. A slow
Erosion. It is one thing to
Give oneself to water; I
Wore down to a spur of myself.
A bird with nowhere to land
Alighted on a femur. A terrible need.
The land took a drink of the sea;
Mountain valleys soughed as throats.
She knew of submerged peaks
Recollected in an unheard song,
Seized in a lesser fever.
Meant to have gone to famine
In a season recurring from wind:
It would not turn.
Into a deep snow in sleep
I shook again. If she could not beat
The lightness from her clothes,
It would become a layer
That eddied around in mouth,
Myriad, in everywhere. No
Animal stirs in the noiseless
Quick of a year of two winters,
Gristle of a bloated fish, roots
Split and cached, skin torn
From the hull of a boat
Long withdrawn from water
Hers, a burial in damp
Sand by the springs. Through
December, willows green
There; alder bark reddens
Against late snow. Those
Dead too numerous; no loose
Scars of rock. Nothing roots
In the oldest graves—
Lichen lifts with a fingernail scrape.
Leave belongings piled:
The opaque white bead
Now unstrung, the unidentified
Fragment, ivory ferrule,
The small human figure
Carved of wood.
(Published in The Cormorant Hunter’s Wife, 2009, 2012, and Ice Floe, 2004)