Author Sherman Alexie grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation; much of his work centers around the intersections of mainstream American and tribal culture.
In this part of the NewsHour's series on poets and poetry, Alexie talks about his new book of poetry called "Faces" and his short story collection, "War Dances."
He also reads several poems, including one about his dad, an alcoholic who died early.
"I grew up in that space between my father's enormous potential and everything he did not accomplish. And I think that's what my poems and stories are all about, in some way, even when I'm writing about anything else," he explains.
This video would be terrific for an English class, or culture lesson.
"I grew up in a storytelling culture, a tribal culture, but also in an American storytelling culture. I was obsessed with TV." - Sherman Alexie
"What inspires a poem for me is usually a moment. It's often eavesdropping, either listening to people or watching them, something somebody will say. You know, people speak in poetry all the time. They just don't realize it." - Sherman Alexie
"My father was a basketball player, so I loved basketball because he did. It was a direct transference. But, more than that, basketball, in the United States at least, plays the same function that soccer does everyone else in the world. It's the sport of poverty. It's the sport born of poverty. It's the cheapest sport." - Sherman Alexie
1. Who is your favorite poet? Why?
2. What is a storyteller? Who do you know who tells good stories? What makes them good?
1. What images or words from Alexie's poems stood out for you? How did the poet use language differently than you are used to hearing?
2. Did these poems feel familiar to you or distant? Why?
3. What do these poems or Alexie's story say about the current (economic, political, social) state in America?
4. How would you find out if there are any poets in your community? See if there are any performances or book readings, and then talk to the poet about if and how their community has shaped their perspective.
Read the transcript:
NewsHour Poetry Series: