Friday, September 11, 2009

Reader's Diary #524- Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm (collector and editor): Without Reservation (Indigenous Erotica)

When my wife first noticed what book I was reading, she asked "so what makes indigenous erotica different than any other erotica?"

It was asked without challenge or judgment, but the question certainly embedded in my brain-- especially since I was about a quarter of the way into it and I didn't have an answer for her. It became at once a distraction and a focus.

"Well," I stumbled, "there seems to be more references to nature, for one. You know: trees, animals, and stuff."

But was there really? I haven't read a lot of erotica, that's for sure, so what was I comparing it to? Sure I've come across the occasional erotic poem or prose passage, but certainly not anything that claimed its status as "erotic" as loudly as this collection did. Maybe those nature images are just as common in non-Indigenous erotica. In one of Akiwenzie-Damm's own poems, for instance, she needlessly gives us another poem that uses "plums" for sexual imagery. William Carlos Williams did that long ago (and better) and he wasn't indigenous. So maybe the supposed abundance of nature imagery was merely the result of my stereotyping of indigenous people. Or maybe it was more common and it actually is a cultural commonality between indigenous peoples. I find it hard to trust my own perceptions sometimes. Am I hypo or hyper culturally sensitive?

Believe it or not, I respect the book more for forcing me to confront myself this way. Though I don't have answers, it must be a good thing to have these reflections from time to time, right?

Still, these are hardly the erotic thoughts I'm sure Akiwenzie-Damm and other contributors had in mind for their readers. This is the way I ruin parties.

So what did they have in mind? Smut? Sure. Some of these read like Penthouse Forum letters. Thom E. Hawke's poem "Pow Wow Letters" comes to mind. But how about romantic? Sure. Try Beth Brant's short story "So Generously." Beautiful? Gregory Scofield's poem "Ceremonies." And some are also philosophical and some are also silly. All of which, in a nutshell, sums up sex for just about everyone, indigenous or not. Hey, maybe that was the point.

Oh and some were good and some were not so good. But I guess that's also pretty accurate.

Here's one of my favourites. It's by Randy Lundy and probably fits under the "philosophical" banner:

A Treatise Upon the Nature of the Soul
First of all, the word soul
it just will not do
with its implication
its insinuation
its outright declaration
that the body is a tomb!

(Read the rest here.)

Without Reservation, featuring erotic short stories and poetry from Canada, the U.S., Australia, and Aotearoa (New Zealand), is published in Canada by Kegedonce Press and available for purchase here.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

You may ruin parties by over-analyzing erotica, I tend to ruin them by wondering if a compilation of erotica (of any ilk) does not reduce its very eroticism. It's best doled out in small bites, I would think.

Wanda said...

Followed the link and read all that were available -- 'Ceremonies' came out on top for me. Kinda liked 'Prairie Goddess' too but the last two lines seemed to cheapen it a bit.

Jacki said...

Well, I was going to try to leave a comment on everyone's reviews for September, but you got me. Indigenous erotica poetry? I guess my question is: what is the common theme that runs between Indigenous erotica in Canada, the US, Australia, and New Zealand? I have my master's in history and my thesis was on 17th Century Huron women so I do have some understanding of Indigenous issues and the commonalities of colonialism, but ... why exclude groups from Mexico, Latin America, South America? Was it something simple, like a language issue, or more complex, like a different approach to erotica?