Teaching for Change recommended book
An American Book Award-winning poet explores her Indigenous, working-class heritage against the backdrop of urban poverty.
Drawing on her background as a tobacco sharecropper, factory worker, and fisherwoman, Hedge Coke fills the void of Native American working-class literature with poems as vivid in their telling as they are powerful in their ethos. Off-Season City Pipe lyrically articulates the stark contrast between an ancestry whose strong work ethic, manual skills, and environmental stewardship defined their communities, but whose present circumstances have forced so many into impoverished city living, performing work that fails to provide sustenance for the land or its people.
Allison Adelle Hedge Coke is the winner of the 2005 Wordcraft Circle Writer of the Year award for Poetry.
“[Hedge Coke] has paid her dues and earned this tough voice, the right to tell it like it is.” —North American Review
“From North Carolina tobacco fields to Midwest factories—in rusty, rural trailers and on urban streets—Allison Adelle Hedge Coke creates poems of aching muscle and ancient will.” —Pulse of the Twin Cities
“[Hedge Coke] does not wallow in sentimental attachments to the spaces of the past. Instead, she emphasizes the land as a place to work, stressing the stark realities of the rural and urban working class . . . Off-Season City Pipe demonstraits that, after long searching, Hedge Coke has found a place to work, envisioning the gritty, yet salvageable experiences of the working underclass.” —MultiCultural Review
“The grit of lived experience textures every page of this collection of poems . . . [Hedge Coke] is a Native American Ginsberg with more dirt under her nails—a Beat poet, but also powerfully connected to the ‘relocated and dislocated peoples’ from whom she garners identity and sense of connectedness.” —Altar Magazine
“Hedge Coke gives us a glimpse of a rarified world, drawing from her background as a sharecropper, assembly-line packer and practitioner of other ‘manual arts’ . . . her pieces make music of factory rhythms, or paint portraits of dirt paths and empty shacks. With a cadence that occasionally rises and falls like a preacher’s, Hedge Coke lifts her readers’ thoughts.” —Minneapolis Observer
“[Hedge Coke’s] second book of poems, which spans life in San Francisco, Santa Fe and Sioux Falls, is as vast as it is urgently precise.” —Curve
“The[se] poems bring together many of the ideas, problems, questions, and concerns with which Native American communities continue to wrestle . . . . [Hedge Coke] has acknowledged, and made the reader acknowledge, willingly or unwillingly, other facets of Native people’s lives, just as other key authors such as Sherman Alexie, Leslie Marmom Silko, and Joy Harjo have done.” —Cold Mountain Review
“Long-lined, conversational poems full of southern swing and storytelling zest.” —Booklist
“This fine collection of poetry by Allison Adelle Hedge Coke makes a ladder of songs. The ladder balances between the well-grooved symbol of a warrior on horseback running into the wind for battle, to a Native mother feeding her children when there is nothing. She, too, is a warrior. The poem ‘The Change’ stands out as a classic of contemporary Native literature. What is presented in this evocative poetry is not a ‘struggle for dignity,’ but a dignity for struggle.” —Joy Harjo
“These are hard-nosed narratives of simple people known along the way, Hedge Coke can’t disguise her simpatico though she bites with tough images and can pack a walloping metaphor onto her natural speech of muscled language which grazes smoothly across varied terrains.” —Maurice Kenny