Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Analysis of a sacred site

Poet Allison Hedge Coke descends from moundbuilders and mixed ancestry from several Native American communities with several Europoean ones.  Her verse play, Blood Run, is dedicated to the original citizens of the former city now named Blood Run along the Big Sioux River and to all who work to preserve sacred sites. Moreover, the entire text is mathematically encoded.   Chadwick Allen, an English professor whose interests include American Indian and New Zealand Maori literatures and cultures, has written an article for American Literature that explores the sacred numbers and thematic geometry that connects Hedge Coke's verse with the sacred site; we will offer a sample of Allen's analysis following "Snake Mound"from Blood Run

     Snake Mound     by Allison Hedge Coke

     Present invisibility
     need not concern,

My weight remains
     heavy upon this land.

     weaving, incurve,
     mouth undone,
     for egg swallow.

Though my body
     suffered sacrifice
     to railway fill,

     my vision bears
     all even still.

     Be not fooled.
     Be not fooled.

     I w
ill appear again.
     Sinuous, I am.

Here is a small sample of Allen's analyis from "Serpentine Figures, Sinuous Relations:  Thematic Geometry in Allison Hedge Coke’s Blood Run."  (from American Literature, V82 No4, Dec 2010, 807-834):
     Seventeen brief lines compose the “Snake Mound” persona poem, creating a narrow column of words on the page visually suggestive of a snake. These seventeen lines are divided into eight stanzas: seven stanzas of two lines each and one stanza of three lines. As already noted, seventeen is the seventh prime; two is the first (and only even) prime, and three is the second prime. The eight stanzas of the poem can be aligned with the eight known astronomical alignments of the extant Serpent Mound in Ohio: true astronomical north, the summer solstice sunset point, and six lunar rise and set points. The poem’s seventeen lines are also arranged into eight distinct statements of varying lengths: two statements of two lines each, one statement of four lines, one statement of  five lines, and four statements of one line each. All of these numbers are either prime (two, five, seven), sacred (four, seven), or, in the case of the number one, unique in the sense that it is neither prime nor composite. Moreover, the particular sequencing of statement lengths (2—2—4—5—1—1—1—1) simulates the Serpent Mound’s structure of complex head, long body, and tightly coiled tail. Finally, the poem’s division into eight stanzas meanst that, on the page, there are seven “convolutions” or turns in the seven gaps of white space between stanzas, further mirroring the Serpent Mound in Ohio. 
    Here is a link to the complete text of Allen's article.

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