Horizon of the Dog Woman powerfully explores the strength of people, especially women, who struggle to find acceptance--in their bodies, in histories, in relationships, or in Indigeneity. These poems invoke the anxieties of outsiders, of those forced to reside in the liminal spaces of our society. Still, from these in-between places and too-often ignored perspectives, the speakers boldly proclaim their presence and their deep understanding of the systems complicit in their situations. The personas created in Horizon's poems refuse to be sidelined. Rather, they dig in and create new spaces, building up rather than being overcome.
Largely set against the vast northern forests and deserted shorelines of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Horizon describes a landscape that, while sometimes frigid and harsh, also offers space for growth, solitude, and a kind of peace that exists outside the frameworks of "civilization." The poems in this collection recreate the Great Lakes region's deep northern woodlands, as well as its shorelines, borders, and ghost towns; it is in this liminal wilderness that Horizon's speakers most often find acceptance of place and self.
Built on both the personal and the persona, this collection gives voice to the unvoiced throughout history and literature. From Leda of Greek mythology to a mid-20th Century female magician; from the "Radium Girls" to unspoken women in the classic poems of Kipling, Noyes, or Carroll; from Mohegan ancestors to Lake Superior, the characters in the persona poems speak boldly and against that which would silence them. Also invoking a more personal perspective, Horizon details the first steps by an Indigenous woman toward an exploration of her disconnected histories, cultures, and languages. As a member of a displaced group of Indigenous peoples, the author explores not only what it means to be displaced, but also "re-placed" into the homelands of another Indigenous culture. Drawing on both Brothertown/Mohegan and Anishinaabe language and traditions, Horizon begins to interrogate multicultural Indigenous spaces and bodies disrupted and complicated by settler colonialism. Here too, the narrators are asking where they fit in, sometimes demonstrating conviction, while at other times doubting, questioning, and leaving the reader without easy answers.
At its heart, Horizon of the Dog Woman is about relationships. Yes, romantic relationships, both the hopeful and the toxic, but more so about relationships between mothers and daughters, women and their communities, people and their histories, between the body and the land. First and foremost, the relationship that underlies each of these is the relationship between the body and the self. The poems in Horizon return to the body over and over again, exploring, for example, the effects of society's expectations, unwanted pregnancy, sexual and emotional violence, as well as the healing effects of nature. The voices issuing from those battle-weary but tenacious bodies don't just speak; they demand to be heard.
About the Author
RON STARBUCK is an Episcopalian, a Poet and Writer, and author of There Is Something About Being An Episcopalian, When Angels Are Born, and Wheels Turning Inward, three rich collections of poetry, following a poet's mythic and spiritual journey that crosses easily onto the paths of many contemplative traditions. He has been deeply engaged in an Interfaith-Buddhist-Christian dialogue for many years, and holds a lifelong interest in literature, poetry, Christian mysticism, comparative religion, theology, and various forms of contemplative practice. He has been a contributing writer for Parabola Magazine. And has had poems and essays published in Tiferet: A Journal of Spiritual Literature, an interview and poem in The Criterion: An Online International Journal in English, The Enchanting Verses Literary Review, ONE from MillerWords (Feb. 2016), and Pirene's Fountain, Volume 7 Issue 15, from Glass Lyre Press (Oct. 2014). A collection of essays, poems, short stories, and audio recordings are available on the Saint Julian Press, Inc., website under Interconnections.
The poems of Horizon of the Dog Woman map out a dangerously beautiful terrain of an ancient American winter in the messiness of thaw. Her fierce and flawed speakers remind us that colonization and genocide do not only shape the natural landscape but also the landscape of the female body and voice. Despite violence and erasure, Pelky's characters stand tall and bite back, declaring, "I rebuilt myself//from the tongue/inward. Don't tell//me I didn't speak." This is a powerful debut collection, where we begin at the ending and end at the beginning. -- Anne Barngrover, author of Brazen Creature and Yell Hound Blues
Like the bodies of water of the Upper Peninsula that play a central role in Pelky's poetic imaginings, these poems ripple with a quiet intensity. Her work forms a project of remaking and reimagining, of giving voice to the voiceless--to women, indigenous peoples, and to the land. Balancing the personal and the historical, Pelky navigates violence and erasure, at times interrogating love, what it means to survive as a woman, and different ways to push back against received knowledge. Pelky's collection speaks to the necessity of witness, to the need for a kind of attention that, if held long enough, becomes a transformative magic. -- Jake Young, author of American Oak
Every word on the page has a sense of both inevitability and surprise that makes me pause to breathe in her lines--that is to say, her work is breathtaking in the physical, as well as the spiritual sense. Pelky spent thirteen years as a zookeeper, and she poetically transforms--or transfigures--her scientific training: her close observations of nature resemble extraordinary findings in a field notebook. She is witty, condensed, and a passionate, sometimes brutal, social critic, and Horizonis unrelentingly feminist. The book also exposes the historical fact that just as women's bodies have been violated and erased, so too have Indigenous people. While she unflinchingly portrays the fractures and bloody divisions of North America's past, her vision is healing and wholistic. Pelky's poetry refutes narratives of erasure and replaces them with visibility, voice, and extraordinary beauty. -- Aliki Barnstone, Author of Dwelling and Bright Body - Poet Laureate of Missouri