By Margaret McKinney
Poet John Trudell will join his poet daughter, New Mexico Highlands University student Tara Evonne Trudell, on stage at 5 p.m. this Sunday at Highlands University’s Ilfeld Auditorium for an evening of spoken word and poetry.
John Trudell is also an acclaimed musician, with his band, Bad Dog, performing a unique brand of blues nationwide as well as in Europe. A Santee Sioux, he first entered the public eye in 1969 as a spokesperson for the Indian of All Tribes occupation of Alcatraz island. He was the chairman of the American Indian Movement from 1973–1979.
Trudell reads his poetry at universities throughout the country. This is his first visit to Highlands.
“It’s going to be a dream come true to share the stage with him,” Tara Trudell said. “He’s not just my father, but a poet I admire deeply. As a woman who has rediscovered her own voice through poetry, it’s an honor to be reading my work with a poet who has guided me. We will share our poetry on issues concerning the earth, social awareness, and social justice.
“I started writing poetry again after a 10-year break and was intrigued by the healing process the words brought to the surface. Writing poetry can be like catching butterflies: the words flutter so quickly from deep within and I capture them as quickly as I can on paper. Then I go back and shape the poem, looking at how the words interact,” Trudell said.
Trudell, 44, is earning her bachelor of fine arts in media arts with and emphasis in filmmaking. Her films have already garnered awards. The Las Vegas single mother of four returned to Highlands in 2010. Trudell’s roots run deep in northern New Mexico on her mother’s side, dating back seven generations. Villanueva was named for Trudell’s great-great grandmother, Manuela Villanueva.
The poetry reading with her father will be filmed as the culmination of a documentary Trudell is producing from her summer poetry reading series called “Poetry in Random Places.” She is collaborating with fellow media arts student Faith Toledo on the project.
Toledo helped film Trudell’s poetry readings this summer at northern New Mexico venues ranging from the Axle Contemporary Gallery and Lucky Bean Café in Santa Fe to the Las Vegas Farmer’s Market. Trudell also filmed herself reading poetry in natural settings such as cornfields and scenic canyons.
Trudell’s films are rich in what she calls her earth shots: a flowing river, trees thrashing in the wind, a hawk soaring overhead, clouds filling a leaden sky, a lingering sunset. Earth images also infuse her poetry.
“I want people to recognize the beauty of the land and nature and be moved in some way. The more we cultivate our connection to the earth, the stronger we become,” Trudell said.
Trudell is also a human rights activist, with a particular passion for immigration issues. Her poetry was selected for inclusion in the anthology, Poetry of Resistance: A Multicultural Response to Arizona SB 1070 and Other Xenophobic Laws, slated for publication through the University of Arizona Press.
The Aug. 19 poetry reading is free but donations are accepted.
Proceeds will help with the production expenses for Trudell’s documentary, “Poetry in Random Places.”