American Literature 2010 82(4):807-834; DOI:10.1215/00029831-2010-046
Duke University Press
Serpentine Figures, Sinuous Relations: Thematic Geometry in Allison Hedge Coke's Blood Run
Ohio State University
Allison Hedge Coke's remarkable sequence of two narrative and sixty-four persona poems,Blood Run, gives voice to the traditions of Indigenous North American mound-building cultures and, most strikingly, to Indigenous earthworks themselves. Central to this project is the poet's literary resurrection of a destroyed snake effigy mound once central to the Blood Run earthworks site, located on what is now the Iowa-South Dakota border, which she performs by citing the terrestrial form and celestial alignments of the majestic Serpent Mound extant in southern Ohio. Analysis of the thematic and structural complex Hedge Coke builds for her "Snake Mound" and "Stone Snake Effigy" persona poems reveals the multiple ways she simulates earthworks technologies, based in methods of Indigenous science, both in the strategic placement of individual poems within the sequence and in the complex geometry that underlies their free-verse forms. This subtle mathematical patterning, based on the natural numbers four, three, and seven and on the sequence of the first twenty-four primes, provides the foundation for a contemporary earthworks poetics. Hedge Coke explicates an older form of Indigenous writing, produced not simply on the land but through the medium of the land itself, while recording an activist witnessing of historical and ongoing attempts at its erasure.
American Indian Quarterly © 2011 University of Nebraska Press