D.A. Lockhart is the author of multiple collections of poetry and short fiction. His most recent work includes Bearmen Descend Upon Gimli (Frontenac House, 2021), Go Down Odawa Way (Kegedonce Press Press, 2021), and Breaking Right: Stories (Porcupine’s Quill, 2021). His work has appeared widely throughout Turtle Island including Best Canadian Poetry 2019, the Malahat Review, Grain, CV2, TriQuarterly, The Fiddlehead, ARC Poetry Magazine, and Belt. Along the way his work has garnered numerous Pushcart Prize nominations, National Magazine Award nominations, and Best of the Net nominations. He is a graduate of the Indiana University – Bloomington MFA in Creative Writing program where he held a Neal-Marshall Graduate Fellowship in Creative Writing. He is pùkuwànkoamimëns of the Moravian of the Thames First Nation. Lockhart currently resides at Waawiiyaatanong and Pelee Island where he is the publisher at Urban Farmhouse Press and poetry editor at the Windsor Review.
What draws me to the writer: Daniel and I seem to keep intersecting, whether at readings, or committees or through haiku. He has been putting out a prodigious amount of poetry and processing even more as editor and publisher. What I like about his writing is that it is not pretend nor pretentious. He grounds it in observation, in paying attention to the the immediate and yet it is not plain nor decorative but on fire. His poetry seems to driven more compact with each book.
Book: Go Down Odawa Way (Kegedonce 2021)
About the Book: D.A. Lockhart’s Go Down Odawa Way is a poetry collection that explores the physical, historical, and cultural spaces that make up the traditional territory of the Three Fires Confederacy. This is the region currently inhabited by southwestern Ontario and southeastern Michigan. Individual poems and sections of this collection explore the documented villages, history, and mythologies of the Odawa, Ojibway, Huron/Wendat, and Pottawatomi nations that were lost to the process of colonization and relocation. The project speaks to the history of the region that predates contemporary Canadian and American borders and namings as well as carves out a history that extends back past the mere couple of centuries of European colonization. The narrative focal point of the pieces find their roots in the traditional Lenape vantage point of the author and seeks to draw on the experiences of a modern day urban Indian in connection with the manner that land has changed with non-Indigenous settlement and those that inhabit it.
Old Bhikkhu Throws Smoke to Welcome the StormsD.A. Lockhart’s Go Down Odawa Way
He says that rain is coming
up from the south, in the way
you can’t trust it. Camels package
in one hand, other shadowing
the lit prayer half dangling
from his lip. Nods to floods
not so distant and the certainty
that we all need water. Eyes
squinted into creases the shape
of maxkalaniat claws, know he reads
land and sky in manner that hunters
in flight read land beneath them.
P.P: What’s your favourite part of the process? Was it research, writing, editing or doing readings, if you’ve got the chance?
D.L.: I typically have really enjoyed working on the research for individual poems or collections. Go Down Odawa Way was no different. It is much more of a “lived” or experiential work of mine. And given that the research for so many of the pieces involved simply “being” in the places described and meditating on the Indigenous history of that place. The included poem is from one of those moments, walking the streets in Lansing. The writing was fun, mind you. Scribbled down in an airBNB loft down the street from the site of that poem. That whole process there is the best part, the exploration and the creative response to that.
P.P: How did this book change you as you wrote it?
One of the most surprising things to me was the development and inclusion of the Lansing, MI poems. And how that development really keyed in the exploration contained within the collection as a whole. It came as a surprise because initially the book was about just Waawiiyaatanong (the communities directly placed along the Straits of Detroit). Yet organically, I began spending time yet ago in Lansing during the writing of the book. And it all felt a natural extension of the original project. Which makes sense given that Lansing is well within Three-Fires Confederacy territory. It is a region that is profoundly still Indigenous and, most importantly, heavily Odawa. I would be remise to not declare that the poem “Namegos,” is the turning point for the collection. It’s a piece about the trout navigating a changed river through Central Michigan and Lansing in particular. Perhaps a tuning fork piece is the best way to describe it. All the other poems in Go Down Odawa Way, in their final forms, grew from what was going on in that particular poem. Discussions of survival and resilience in face of colonial change. It caused a fair amount of revisions to a lot of the individual pieces later on and focused the overall collection to what we see know. “Namegos” perhaps opened up a more lyric path for the collection as a whole. I have definitely tended fall more strongly on the narrative side of poetry over my career. And this one poem came at about a midway point in the construction of the manuscript. Funny enough, it was because of that poem that the entire Bad Boys/Mahtenu/Detroit Pistons section emerges for the collection. It also changed and lengthened that final poem, “The Gospel of Seger,” to better suit the collection. A regular keystone you should definitely say.
P.P: What do you expect a reader to take away?
D.L: Simple enough, some notion of decolonization. Windsor-Essex might be among the worst regions to recognize its Indigenous heritage. I personally have fought local government institutions and “academics” to have the traditional name and peoples of this region recognized. We have propaganda offered up in place of history in our community. It’s why the city built a statue to an Indigenous leader that never lived here and was fighting for a homeland in modern day Indiana rather than recognize an Indigenous mayor or the location(s) of the original Odawa communities. This collection is attempting to undo some of the prevalent and virulent white supremacy in our community. Because when this sort of blatant lying passes as history the community as a whole suffers. We haven’t had a BIPOC city councillors until a very recent by-election. We have a single woman on our city council. Ten wards. One woman. And until very recently no BIPOC representation. And it’s been that way for well more than a decade. In a city that is one of the most diverse in the country. And this affects more than Indigenous folks. When I speak of decolonization this all part of it. Truth telling might be a better way to put it. This book hopes to kick open some doors, illustrate to those of any background willing to listen, that things need to change, truth needs to come to the surface.