The Sky Watched: Poems of Ojibwe Lives (Paperback)
A collective memoir in poetry of an Ojibwe family and tribal community, from creation myth to this day, updated with new poems
Reaching from the moment of creation to the cry of a newborn, The Sky Watched gives poetic voice to Ojibwe family life. In English and Ojibwe, those assembled here—voices of history, of memory and experience, of children and elders, Indian boarding school students, tribal storytellers, and the Manidoog, the unseen beings who surround our lives—come together to create a collective memoir in poetry as expansive and particular as the starry sky.
This world unfolds in the manner of traditional Ojibwe storytelling, shaped by the seasons and the stages of life, marking the significance of the number four in the Ojibwe worldview. Summoning spiritual and natural lore, award-winning poet and scholar Linda LeGarde Grover follows the story of a family, a tribe, and a people through historical ruptures and through intimate troubles and joys—from the sundering of Ojibwe people from their land and culture to singular horrors like the massacre at Wounded Knee to personal trauma suffered at Indian boarding schools. Threaded throughout are the tribal traditions and knowledge that sustain a family and a people through hardship and turmoil, passed from generation to generation, coming together in the manifold power and beauty of the poet’s voice.
Linda LeGarde Grover is professor emerita of American Indian studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth and a member of the Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe. Her books The Road Back to Sweetgrass, Onigamiising: Seasons of an Ojibwe Year, In the Night of Memory, and Gichigami Hearts: Stories and Histories from Misaabekong, all from Minnesota, have earned numerous awards, including the Native Writers Circle of the Americas First Book Award; Northeastern Minnesota Book Awards for Poetry, Memoir, and Fiction; and a Minnesota Book Award for Memoir and Creative Nonfiction. Her book of stories The Dance Boots was the winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award and the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize.
"The Sky Watched bears witness to Native experience. In Linda LeGarde Grover’s work, time runs backward through Ojibwe creation myths and explanation tales to find strength for the later years of boarding school and all the upheavals of the new world. Family plays a major role as does the roundness of moon, owl nest, gratitude, and the ‘grace of this merciful earth.’ There is heaven and hell in these heavenly poems."—Diane Glancy, author of Pushing the Bear
"This book of poems is much more than a collection of poetry: it is documentation of our existence as Ojibwe people, of our historical struggles and our strong resilience. Linda LeGarde Grover creates beauty, using words to form pictures and evoke emotion about our past and give vision to our future as a people. This collection is a testament to the fact that when our elders say, 'we are each given a song,' Grover was given, and gives to us, many songs. Read each word as a gift."—Marcie Rendon, author of the Cash Blackbear Mystery series
"Just as moonlight is a reflection of the sun, The Sky Watched is a reflection Anishinaabe being and becoming. Reading these poems is a journey through times of birth, growth, challenge, and wisdom. Linda LeGarde Grover writes of words uncoiling, words that lead to laughter, words as ‘lifeblood linking ancestors and descendants,’ and the most important word ‘miigwech,’ which becomes a prayer through use and repetition. Gimiigwechiwigo, Linda, gaa-ozhibii’aman o’o mazina’igan ji-mikawaamiyaang ezhi-giizhigong gaagige waabamiyangid. This book is a gift given to remind us that the sky is always watching us."—Margaret O’Donnell Noodin, author of What the Chickadee Knows: Poems in Anishinaabemowin and English
"Linda LeGarde Grover’s The Sky Watched is a beautiful litany of poems about Anishinaabe lives. She weaves English and Anishinaabemowin in lovely and innovative ways, and what is left at the end of the collection is a heartbreaking symphony full of many voices, all coming together with their own sorrowing but merciful hands."—Erika Wurth, author of Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend
"This is the first bilingual poetry book in English/Ojibwe. Not translations but poems using both languages. Linda LeGarde Grover’s The Sky Watched is a poetic reaction, in a wonderfully realistic voice, of spirit and essence of the Ojibwe people. Read it and be transformed, as readers of Beowulf and El Cid and other national epics have been throughout the ages."—Geary Hobson, author of Plain of Jars
"Remember, remember, remember, Linda LeGarde Grover’s wonderful book demands. And she does. Again and again. Old tales from the Ojibwe tradition and new stories from mission schools and relocations where ‘a tangle of children smell home in their dreams.’ She captures the taste of recipes and the feel of beading bracelets alongside injustices minor as a navy bean and major as a lost language. These are poems as sad and essential as a field of cotton flowers. You will remember them."—Jeffrey Thompson, author of Birdwatching in Wartime and Fragile
"Linda LeGarde Grover tells of a calico flowered beanbag that when ‘split it spilled the past,’ just as her poems spill extraordinary perceptions infused with Ojibwe spirituality along with haunting insight of raw boarding school memories that house a continent of pain and despair. The Sky Watched is an intuitive voice of reverence that understands the power of the spirit."—Denise Lajimodiere, author of Stringing Rosarie
"Her formal innovation is to include poems written partly or completely in Ojibwe. In a collection about the systematic eradication of Indian language, this subtly tells a powerful story about resistance and survival."—Star Tribune
"The Sky Watched is a book of and for community. It is a book of witness. It testifies to survivance as, according to its last lines, ‘a continuing song / since long before the memory of mortals.’"—Kenyon Review
"A sort of collective memoir in poetry form of the Great Lakes region's Anishinaabe/Ojibwe people, shaped by the seasons and stages of their lives."—Minnesota Alumni
"A bilingual poetry book, laying out and braiding the English and Ojibwemowin in poems that explore linguistic intention, ethics, and definition."—Asymptote
"Each poem reads like a story with vivid imagery and thought-provoking subjects. This is a great book for anyone wanting to learn more about Indigenous history."—Northern Wilds
"The Sky Watched is truly a gift of collective memory through generations broken by genocide and colonization. "—Colors of Influence