Kimberly Blaeser closes out Indigenous people’s month events with poetry reading and gallery viewing


Elly Herrick

Dr. Kimberly Blaeser, an Anishinaabe poet, read a selection of poems from her book, “Copper Yearning”, at Krueger Library on Nov. 10. The sound of rain hit the windows and created a lush atmosphere as she presented.

Olivia Prondzinski, News Reporter

Dr. Kimberly Blaeser, Native American writer, photographer and scholar, visited Winona State University on Thursday Nov. 10. Blaeser is an Anishinaabe poet and read a selection of poems from her book, “Copper Yearning”, at the Krueger Library.

Blaeser’s poetry collection also includes “Apprenticed to Justice and Resister en dansant/Ikwe-niimi: Dancing Resistance”. Blaeser is a professor emerita at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, an MFA faculty for the Institute of American Indian Arts and the founding director of In-Na-Po (Indigenous Nations Poets).

This poetry reading was part of a joint project between the English and the art and design departments. James Armstrong, English professor, and Roger Boulay, assistant professor in the art and design department, picked a poetry project for the students to collaborate their work on. The English and photography students worked beside each other to create art and poems in preparation for Blaeser’s arrival. This project was inspired by Blaeser’s genre called “Picto Poems”. The exhibit was displayed in the second-floor gallery in Watkins Hall.

Armstrong said Blaeser writes a wide variety of poetry including modern poetry, some free verse poetry and that she is an excellent haiku writer.

“We are really excited to have Dr. Blaeser here to see the exhibit, talk with the students, to read the student’s poetry and also to read to us,” Armstrong said. “My classes have been reading her poetry for quite some time”.

Blaeser opened by greeting the audience in her native language and stated she was delighted to be back in Minnesota as she grew up here. The first poem Blaeser read was about Minnesota and places we all come from.

“I am from boats and canoes and kayaks, from tribal ghost who rise at dawn, dance like whisps of fog on water,” Blaeser recited from her poem. This poem was about the life experiences that make us who we are.

Blaeser read a number of poems from her collection, she calls many of her poems “memory poems”. The majority of Blaeser’s poetry is about her memories growing up on a White Earth Reservation and Native American issues. Armstrong described Blaeser as a political poet.

After the poetry reading the audience walked over to Watkins Hall to view the students’ work.

WSU students got to show their work with Blaeser in Watkins Hall and have conversations following Blaeser’s poetry reading. (Elly Herrick)

“She had my students read their poems and she commented on them, which was very generous of her,” Armstrong said. Since Blaeser is a photographer and poet, her visit provided a great opportunity for the departments to collaborate.

“I think the best part was that [Blaeser] got to visit the gallery and interact with the students,” Armstrong said.

Blaeser has a new poetry collection that is set to come out in the spring of 2023.