Tacey M. Atsitty
O Holy People, show me
how I am human, how I am soon to sliver.
HOW IT BEGAN: Healing, mostly. In Rain Scald you can find several histories that call for ceremony. But this was also my master’s thesis, so most of the writing was done in Ithaca, New York, where I lived for two years. Experiences I had in the gorges with the Cornell University community and neighboring tribes of Cayuga and Onondaga and Oneida influenced the genesis of this book. And I took a deeper look into the stories that land holds, both in New York and back home in the canyons of Arizona.
INSPIRATION: Jesus Christ, the land, death, love, almost-loves, memory of childhood experiences, and my family and ancestors both near and far.
INFLUENCES: My cohort at Cornell and my professors Alice Fulton and Kenneth McClane had the most influence on this work. I gleaned so much from everyone in my workshops—reading, hearing, and internalizing their work on a weekly basis for years was a blessing. Additionally I often listen to music while writing. Once I find the song that holds the emotion of the poem, I’ll play it on repeat for hours, sometimes days, until the piece I’m working on is ready. One song that helped me immensely was Louie Gonnie’s “Hooghan,” a Navajo early morning blessing song, and also Samantha Crain’s album Songs in the Night.
WRITER’S BLOCK REMEDY: Prayer, desire, and knowing that I am a writer. It’s my makeup, a big part of who I am.
ADVICE: I know for some poets, myself included, it’s not our strong suit to be social, but networking and joining a community of writers can be beneficial, not only for publishing one’s work, but for building and strengthening ties and relationships.
AGE: 36. RESIDENCE: Salt Lake City. JOB: Native American program coordinator at a state historical park. TIME SPENT WRITING THE BOOK: The two years of graduate school. TIME SPENT FINDING A
HOME FOR IT: Not a month out of graduate school I was contacted by Laura Tohe, an acquiring editor for the University of New Mexico Press. She knew I had recently graduated with my MFA and asked if I had a manuscript to submit for review.