Sunday, August 11, 2013

Out Spotlight

Today's Out Spotlight is and award winning gay and Native American poet who's work represents the multiple cultures that made and molded him into who he is today. Today's Out Spotlight is Maurice Kennedy.

Maurice Kenny was born August 16, 1929 in Watertown, New York, the son of a Mohawk Indian and to a mother who was part Seneca. At the age of nine, when his parents separated, he went to live with his mother in New York City. After a run in with the law as a teen, Kenny returned to upstate New York to live with his father. The result for Kenny was identifying most strongly with his father's Mohawk heritage.

He began writing poetry as a teenager. At seventeen, he discovered Walt Whitman and was deeply drawn to his natural language and rhythm, qualities he later discovered in Native oral traditions.

Kenny attended Butler University in Indiana and St. Lawrence University in New York, and he studied with Louise Bogan at New York University. When he was twenty-eight he issued his first poetry collection and did not publish again until he settled in Brooklyn in 1967.

Kenny credits his poem "First Rule," written in the late 1960s, with leading him back to the oral traditions of his Native heritage. The incantatory quality of his poems have led some to describe them as "chants." He prefers to call his works "pieces," reserving the term chant for works of a more ritual nature, in which "I mean certain things to take place in your heads."

Two of his collections, North: Poems of Home and Dancing Back Strong the Nation, reflect his Native cultural heritage. In 1976 he claimed his gay identity with "Tinselled Bucks: An Historical Study in Indian Homosexuality" and the poem "Winkte" in Gay Sunshine.

Drawing on diverse sources, he boldly reclaimed native two-spirit traditions for contemporary gay Indians.

His Gay and Indian consciousness came together in his 1979 anthology, Only As Far As Brooklyn, where critics pointed out, Kenny's mature and distinctive voice fully emerges.

The process of reclaiming his past continued in the 1984 collection, The Mama Poems (for which he received an American Book Award). The poems are the first time he wrote about his childhood and family.

In the 80's, he turned to narrative poetry. In "Blackrobe: Isaac Jogues, B. March 11, 1607, D. October 18, 1646", he relates the story of a Jesuit missionary martyred by the Mohawks in 1646. In "Tekonwatonti/Molly Brant", Kenny recovers the voice of Molly Brant, sister of Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant, who married Sir William Johnson.

Kenny has published over twenty-five collections of poetry, fiction, and essays. His work has appeared in over forty-five anthologies, magazines, and journals in several languages, and radio and film productions. In the words of Joseph Bruchac, he ranks among "the four or five significant Native American poets." He currently lives in upstate New York, where he is poet-in-residence at North Country Community College at Saranac Lake and visiting professor at Paul Smith College.

Kenny's 1982 book of poems, "Blackrobe: Isaac Jogues, B. March 11, 1607, D. October 18, 1646" was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, as was "Between Two Rivers." He is the recipient of a National Public Radio Award for Broadcasting.

In 2002, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers' Circle of the Americas.


the real m said...

Jake looks pensive. Lets hope he is discussing the pros and cons of coming out.

I don't recall our ever saying Austin lives in Austin, just that he visits there. He's even said he lives in LA.

Cloud 9 said...

Another outstanding Spotlight!