Cover Photo: This header image shows the cover of Chelsea's book, A CALM & NORMAL HEART, along with Chelsea's headshot. Chelsea's hair is braided and she wears dangly earrings while looking into the distance to the left of the photographer.
Photograph courtesy of Chelsea T. Hicks

Chelsea T. Hicks Wants More Indigenous Poets to Write from Their Own Languages

In this interview, Catapult’s Head Instructor, Gabrielle Bellot, talks with instructor Chelsea T. Hicks about Indigenous poetry, colonialism, languages, the process of “rematriation,” and more.

new course from Chelsea T. Hicksparticularly those working with ancestral languages rather than the languages of colonizers. The class will attempt to examine the complicated links between Western and Indigenous poetic traditions, and it places special focus on the role of women in Indigenous families and histories; one exercise will involve students having the option of bringing a family heirloom connected to their mother, grandmother, or anyone else in their matrilineal heritage, which they can then respond to in their writing.

By reading a variety of work and using such personal, multilayered exercises, the course will offer students a special opportunity to not only receive feedback on their poems, but to deepen their understanding of their heritages and how these connect to the wider world they are writing in. In anticipation of the class, Catapult’s Head Instructor, Gabrielle Bellot, speaks here with Chelsea about Indigenous poetry, colonialism, languages, the process of “rematriation,” and more.

Gabrielle Bellot: What do you think about the state of representation of Indigenous voices in poetry—particularly in American poetry—today? Where are we, and what do you think needs to happen next in the world of American poetry to better center Indigenous voices?

N. Scott MomadayLinda Hogan

When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came ThroughA Norton Anthology of Native Nations PoetryNew Poets of Native Nations

IRL, Nature Poem

Postcolonial Love PoemWhereas

Abalone Mountain Press

Ocean Power: Poems from the Desert

GB: Tell us about an Indigenous poet whose work you find exciting and why their writing speaks to you today.

GB: In the exciting description of your upcoming poetry workshop for Catapult, you mention the idea of “rematriation.” I'd love to start by hearing more about what the term “rematriation” means to you, how it differs from the more common term “repatriation,” and why it matters to you as a poet.

on the Iñupiaq language

Reservation DogsHeart Berries

GB: A few weeks into your class, your students will get the chance to explore their connections to their matrilineal heritage—that is, their family history through their mothers, grandmothers, and other women down the line. I'd love to hear a bit more about your own connections to the women in your family history and how your own matrilineal heritage has influenced your work.

Gabrielle Bellot is a staff writer for Literary Hub and the Head Instructor at Catapult. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, The Atlantic, The Cut, Gay Magazine, Tin House, Guernica, The Paris Review Daily, them, and many other places. Her essays have been anthologized in Indelible in the Hippocampus (2019), Can We All Be Feminists? (2018), and elsewhere. She holds both an MFA and PhD in Creative Writing from Florida State University. She lives in Queens.