Raven: Poems

John Smelcer (Author)


In the mythologies of cultures worldwide, Raven, or his smaller cousin, Crow, is often portrayed as an ever-selfish, ever-hungry trickster and destroyer. In this collection, John Smelcer has crafted Raven as all these things, but also as an Instigator who was present at key moments of human history when things went awry. This is the collection that Hughes considered to be the American cousin to his Crow.

Product Details

$15.00  $13.80
Leapfrog Press
Publish Date
July 01, 2019
5.2 X 0.4 X 7.9 inches | 0.35 pounds
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About the Author

John Smelcer is a member of the Traditional Native Village of Tazlina and a shareholder of Ahtna Native Corporation. For three years, he was the executive director of the Ahtna Heritage Foundation, charged with preserving Ahtna culture, history, and language. Taught by every living elder in his tribe, John is one of the last speakers of his severely endangered language and the only tribal member able to read and write fluently in it. In 1998, he published The Ahtna Noun Dictionary and Pronunciation Guide. He is also one among the last speakers of Alutiiq, a neighboring, yet unrelated language. In 2010, he edited and published a noun dictionary of that endangered language. In 1998, John was nominated for the Alaska Governor's Award for his contributions to the preservation of Alaska Native languages and cultures. In 1999, Ahtna Traditional Chief Harry Johns held a special ceremony to designate John as a Traditional Ahtna Culture Bearer, a term usually reserved for elders with significant cultural knowledge. John Smelcer is the author of over fifty books, including Beautiful Words: The Complete Ahtna Poems, the only existing literature published in the Ahtna language. His novels include The Trap, The Great Death, Edge of Nowhere, Lone Wolves, Savage Mountain, Stealing Indians and Kiska. In 1995, John co-edited Durable Breath: Contemporary Native American Poetry. In 2013, with Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki), John co-edited Native American Classics, a graphic novel of 19th and early 20th century Native American literature. For almost a quarter century, John Smelcer served as poetry editor at Rosebud.


"From the Far North comes Crow's bigger cousin jabbering news of this poet." Ted Hughes, Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom In 1997, John Smelcer and Ted Hughes--Sylvia Plath's widower and Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom--met at a pub in Guildford, England. Over pints, the idea of this poetry collection was born. Finally, the book that Hughes considered to be the American cousin to his Crow flaps, caws, and spraddles into the pages of literary history. It was inevitable that Hughes and Smelcer should meet. Crow, meet Raven. "In clean clear language Smelcer takes this knotty cosmic riddle, cruel compassion, treacherous beauty, trickster Raven God--or human beings--and tries out his tough, funny poems. This book is a hard-won look at the riddle." Gary Snyder, winner of the Pulitzer Prize "Ted Hughes and I co-founded Modern Poetry in Translation in 1965, five years before Faber & Faber published Crow. I can tell you that Ted considered this book to be the sister companion to his." Daniel Weissbort "John Smelcer is a myth-maker. He has his own tongue, ancestry, ancient tribal ground. And coming out of those particularities, his myths ring true and touch us wherever we dwell in the here and now. Interesting and effective in its own right, this book is deepened and enriched by its close association, in friendship and vision, with a kindred poet, Ted Hughes. Raven and Crow eye one another, warily." David and Helen Constantine, Editors of Modern Poetry in Translation For INSIDE cover: "In a world where such poets are more rare than people might imagine, John Smelcer is one of the truly great poets I have come across in my life. His poetry is genius." Ruth Stone, winner of the National Book Award "In these fresh and mythic poems, John Smelcer reinvigorates the midnight attitude of Raven, taking the legendary trickster into the Bible, where Raven easily competes with the devil, and then into the contemporary world, where human beings writhe in response. The authenticity of Smelcer's voice, in collaboration with and tribute to Ted Hughes (with a little help from their friend Seamus Heaney, too), makes an electric, multi-leveled series of parables for our often dark times. Raven, a project accomplished with a sublime spirit of collaboration, glows." Molly Peacock