Beautiful Words = by John E. Smelcer PDF

I saw Smelcer talk about and read some of these poems when he visited a school I was at last year. His story is interesting and inspiring as well as heartbreaking when you see the depth of his love for his language and people. These poems are the only works of Ahtna literature in existence, which gives them a tone that feels like the poems themselves know that it's their duty to keep the language and people alive once the speakers die (presumably in the next 30-40 years). The poems are often simple due to the limited vocabulary of the Ahtna language, but I think it works in their favor. Most express simple feelings of awe towards the land and animals in his native village and tell traditional stories from Ahtna mythology. Overall, it was a fun, easy read and a nice way to peek into a culture that almost no one in the world has been exposed to.

The first poem reads:

Can you understand my language?

Almost no one does.
Almost no one remembers.

I am sick and lonely
and weak from crying.


I hope for the best for Smelcer and the preservation of his tribe's language and culture.
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