Thursday, October 29, 2015

AuTHor Thursday: Denise Lajimodiere

Meet Denise Lajimodiere.

She is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Pembina Chippewa, a poet, and Assistant Professor in Educational Leadership at North Dakota State University.

In the introduction to Denise's poetry collection entitled Dragonfly Dance, Louise Erdrich writes:
If healing is partly the resurrection and acknowledgement of pain, then Denise Lajimodiere is a healer through her poetry. If healing is partly laughter, then Denise's poetry can laugh through tears. If healing is a mysterious process, Denise shows that it also begins in everyday kindness.
Some of her poetry has recently been included in North Dakota is Everywhere: An Anthology of Contemporary North Dakota Poets edited by Heidi Czerwiec.

Denise has brought her writing expertise to the Red River Valley Writing Project in her role as Writer in Residence. She participated in a writing workshop with Native students at the Circle of Nations Boarding School in Wahpeton. Also, this past summer, she was part of the Turtle Mountain Teen Art and Writing Workshop. This workshop was recently featured on the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards blog.

Denise graciously shared some insight into her writing world, answering the following questions for the RRVWP blog.

Why do you write?
I can't not write. I have to write, it's like an itch in the back of my brain that can only be soothed by writing. I keep journals in my purse; I keep a dream diary by my bedside to always jot down thoughts and observations that are seeds to poems.

What genres do you write? Which is your favorite? Why?
Poetry is the only genre I write in. I love the challenge of editing out every superfluous word, of making the poem tight and having inner rhyme and chime, assonance, consonance, yet have deep meaning and be beautiful to hear when read out loud. 

Who encouraged you to be a writer?
 My Junior high school creative writing teacher, Mrs. Avshlomov, took me aside and said, ‘you can be a writer.’ At that time, mid 60s there were no Native writers that I knew of and I thought, ‘poor Mrs. A, she doesn’t know that Indians can’t write.’ I immediately stopped writing for nearly ten years, just kept notes on scraps of paper and put them in a shoebox. In 1984 I held a book in my hands titled Love Medicine, by Louise Erdrich. I was stunned to see that not only can Indians write but someone from my own tribe had written an award winning novel!  I started writing poetry again from those shoebox scraps. Louise and Heid Erdrich began doing writing workshops on the Turtle Mountain reservation where I was living. I gave Louise my poems. The next day she took me out by an oak tree by a lake, looked me in the eyes and said ‘You are a writer.’ This time I believed it and have been writing ever since. I have now completed my second poetry book manuscript; it's ready to send to out to publishing houses. 
What are you currently reading?
1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. By Charles C. Mann. A stunning historical book of life before and after Columbus for the Indigenous people of the ‘Americas.’

Denise, miigwich (thank you) for sharing your writing insights with the RRVWP blog.