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Poet Sherman Alexie Talks ‘Faces’ and ‘War Dances’

Author Sherman Alexie talks about his new book of poetry called "Faces" and his new short story collection, "War Dances."

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    And, finally, another in our series on poets and poetry. Tonight, Sherman Alexie, who grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation and now makes his home in Seattle. He's the author of numerous books of fiction and poetry, and he wrote the screenplay for the 1998 film "Smoke Signals."

    Earlier this year, he published a book of poems called "Face." And, this month, he has a new collection of stories and poems called "War Dances."


    My name is Sherman Alexie. And I'm a writer of short stories, poetry, novels, movies, a little bit of journalism.

    I grew up in a storytelling culture, a tribal culture, but also in an American storytelling culture. I was obsessed with TV. The form I most enjoy writing is the sonnet or sonnet-like forms, where you have a — you know, three stanzas or two stanzas that lead into a concluding couplet.

    I'm a big fan of the concluding couplet these days. I like the summation of it. And it feels very traditional as well, because, when you're talking about tribal songs, you know, whether they're short or long, there's a lot of repetition involved. There's a lot of recitation of themes and ideas and sounds.

    But it always ends, you know, with that final drumbeat, that boom that tells you it's over. So, a concluding couplet in a sonnet feels like that last drum beat of a powwow song to me. So, I get my nice mix of Western culture and tribal culture.

    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.