Poet Joan Naviyuk Kane visited Haverford on Thursday for a poetry reading as part of the Tuttle Creative Residency, where she shared poems and stories with students and faculty in a crowded Phillips Wing of the Magill Library.
Kane’s reading followed visits to multiple Haverford classes—including Assistant Professor of Anthropology Joshua Moses’s “Nature/Culture: An Introduction to Environmental Anthropology” and Postdoctoral Writing Fellow John Hyland’s “Ecological Imaginaries: Identity, Violence, and the Environment”—during which she discussed issues of environment, race, place, and dispossession with students.
“She gave us a very personal understanding of the effect that climate change is having on entire cultures of people,” said Laura Donahue ’19, who was able to interact with Kane when she visited Hyland’s writing seminar. Donahue also mentioned the connections Kane’s poetry had to other material covered in the class, adding, “I think her new insights will be really meaningful in our future discussions.”
Kane, who grew up and currently resides in Anchorage, has family that lived for generations on King Island, located in the Bering Sea off of the coast of Alaska. In 1959, the island community was forcibly relocated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Her poetry, which is written in both English and various Inuit dialects, is influenced strongly by her connection to King Island and her Inupiaq identity.
“Transgressing the false boundaries between the cultural and the environmental, her poetry raises necessary and important questions about the relationship between ecology, place, and poetics,” said Hyland in his introduction of King at the reading.
The poems she shared included the award-winning “Hyperboreal” and “The Cormorant Hunter’s Wife,” as well as some of her earlier, unpublished works and some newer poems. As she was reading she also provided backstories about the people, experiences, or stories that inspired her writing.
The final poem that Kane read was “Nunaqtigiit,” an Inupiaq word meaning, as she put it, “people related through common possession of territory, or maybe less romantically, people that are stuck together because of where they happen to live.” The poem’s ultimate line provided a fitting closure to the event: “I am bound to everyone.”
-Michael Weber ’19
Photo by Elena Harriss-Bauer ’19