“Carried in the Arms of Standing Waves:” The Transmotional Aesthetics of Nora Marks Dauenhauer


  • Billy J. Stratton University of Denver




Native America poetics, Tlingit, Nora Marks Dauenhauer, Gerald Vizenor, transmotion, survivance


In recent years, Native, Indigenous, First Nations, and Aboriginal scholars and writers have forged alliances to initiate and support decolonization efforts and the reassertion of native survivance. Native and non-Native scholars have responded to modern challenges by reconceptualizing notions of peoplehood, identity, and nationalism. Following these intellectual contours, rather than conceiving of native culture as totalizing, static, and/or incommensurable—as always already foreign—responsive readings informed by the critical work of Gerald Vizenor can support more sophisticated understandings of native literary production while revealing sites of native transmotion. Through a thusly informed examination of the work of the Tlingit poet, Nora Marks Dauenhauer, this essay highlights sites of transmotional fidelity between Tlingit aesthetics and classic Japanese Zen poetry. Through the development of a succinct, yet complex syncretic aesthetic vision, Dauenhauer is able to create new conceptions of native (trans)nationalism and indigenous survivance, while resisting facile classifications and essentialist conclusions. By employing a critical approach to poetics informed by cospolitainism, survivance, and transmotion, which is apparent in her appropriation of Basho’s haiku form, Dauenhauer is able to reinforce the implicit epistemological nexus that is unmistakably present between Tlingit and classic Japanese thought. As a result, Dauenhauer’s poetry succeeds in simultaneously representing a dynamic portrait of Tlingit cultural survivance, while at the same time promoting a unique transmotional approach that celebrates the immanent interconnectivity of all things. 

Author Biography

Billy J. Stratton, University of Denver

Billy J. Stratton (PhD, American Indian Studies -- University of Arizona) is currently an assistant professor in the English department at the University of Denver. His teaching and research centers on contemporary American/Native American literature, critical theory and creative writing. His first book, Buried in Shades of Night, was published in 2013.




How to Cite

Stratton, B. J. (2015). “Carried in the Arms of Standing Waves:” The Transmotional Aesthetics of Nora Marks Dauenhauer. Transmotion, 1(2), 47. https://doi.org/10.22024/UniKent/03/tm.125