Through a Red Place
Rebecca Pelky’s story-in-poems assembles the author’s research into her Native and non-Native heritage in the land now known as Wisconsin. Through the poet’s ancestors—and documented through text and image—this book relates narratives of people who converged on and impacted this space in myriad ways. Written in English and Mohegan, Through a Red Place reshapes itself from page to page, asking what it means to navigate place as both colonizer and colonized. These poems seek the interior and exterior lives of beloved people and places, interacting with archives and visuals to illustrate that what is past continually interrupts and reinscribes itself upon the present. This collection embodies a refusal to go missing despite what’s buried, erased, or built over, much like the ancient mound now covered by an ammunition plant. An inventive collage of geography, history, myth, translation, lineage, erasure, journalism, and photography, Through a Red Place builds a map between distances and lost stories to unearth and honor the past.
Sonnet for the Mohegan Language
Without an adjective there is no blue
for bird or sky or water, which is not
to say a colorless world. See the hue
just there of a bird being red as it
builds a nest of twigs and bits of wire
(being gray or being rusty). There is room,
like Cricket laughing himself into fire,
for a bird to blacken sometime soon.
The nest as well, might find its niche
being small and happy while it waits
for eggs and then a family to stretch
the edge for love and size, to make it great.
The Mohegan world isn’t static, but flows
prismatic; each of us moves in rainbows.
Rebecca Pelky is a member of the Brothertown Indian Nation of Wisconsin and a native of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. She holds a PhD from the University of Missouri, an MFA from Northern Michigan University, and is an Assistant Professor of Film Studies at Clarkson University in Upstate New York. Through a Red Place is her second poetry collection; her first, Horizon of the Dog Woman, was published by Saint Julian Press in 2020. Visit her at rebeccapelky.com.
Perugia Press is a 501(c)(3) non-profit publisher, and donations are tax-deductible.