dateline: Chicago, December 2008
native American & Chicago poet
E. Donald Two-Rivers
passes away 27 Dec 2008
Three days ago, E. Donald Two-Rivers passed away in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Carlos Cumpian, esteemed Chicago poet and publisher at March Abrazo Press, released an elegy to "Eddy" recently, and we're publishing it below.
To this elegy, I'd add that Two-Rivers produced with his wife (at the time), Beverly Moeser, a significant poetry media work. Like many emerging poets in Chicago circa 1990, there was a real fire in Eddy to produce work across genre and media borders, interdisciplinary pieces that extended poetry in new ways. We all saw that poetry lived vibrantly when we released it from the page. But we did not restrict ourselves to producing poems strictly for the stage. Eddy was part of this wave, and is historically significant because he and Beverly worked in video at a time when video was still a relatively tough new medium to handle.
In an Image Union show aired on WTTW/11 in January 1994 (PBS, Chicago), Eddy presented "I'm Not Tonto," a strong political poem that used as much of Eddy's performance presence on air as the US government broadcast guidelines allowed. Beverly shot and edited the poem into a finished video. Image Union broke with its own format by bringing the artists out to speak for their work, while showing their pieces in close context. I was proud to share that show with Eddy, as were Paul McComas and Jean Howard, fellow pioneers in the poetry video genre. We all danced in Paul's apartment when it aired. (Usually all Image Union has ever done is to present films with little or no context by the artist. In changing format, Image Union's producers broke the fourth wall of video, and in some ways began to undo the Page vs. Stage polemic. Props to Jay Shefsky and Jamie Caesar for producing that episode of Image Union.)
I still can't walk past the foot of the Michigan Avenue bridge without thinking about Eddy's video. It used the statues cast into the bridgehouses to make an ironic and visual point on the conquest of the indigenous people of Illinois, in particular, and of North America in general. The statues portray European settlers beseiged and embattled, but winning against the "encroachment" of native Americans. Angels of mercy weep over their heads. But regarding them with a culturally reversed perspective, the angels seem to be helpless, pointless, effite decorations. The statues appeared for mere moments in the video, but their impression on my life was indelible, thanks to Eddy and Beverly.
Chicago is an Indian name. I think about that all the time. I also think about the indigenous heritage I embody, that I would have overlooked had I not asked the right questions that Eddy set me upon... how my own Métis ancestry binds me to this land, and how that identity re-positions and -balances everything in my world. Eddy was my living connection to that epiphany. And for my lifetime, I will be grateful to him.
respect to all -
- Kurt Heintz
e-poets network, Chicago
http://www.e-poets.net - http://voices.e-poets.net
From: Carlos Cumpian
Sent: Monday, December 29, 2008 1:12:51 PM
I thought you might want to know:
In 1991, I asked my friend Ed Two-Rivers if March Abrazo Press could publish a chapbook of his poetry. Ed was making the open mic poetry rounds all over Chicago's north side and near suburbs Oak Park, Evanston, and Skokie. I was excited by the talent I saw unfolding. Ed had taken his experiences as a former prisoner, Canadian/American treaty rights activist, tool and die worker/union member, husband, father, son, grandson and Anishinaabe (Ojibway) man and was making poetry. Maybe you remember that time as well.
Two-Rivers and I first met each other mid-June of 1971, during the symbolic occupation by American Indians of an abandoned U.S. Army (decommissioned 1968)Nike missile base at Belmont harbor. A drifted apart but a decade later we became friends during various community pow-wows at the Indian Center. In 1990 we were on- the -same - block neighbors in Albany Park. We started going to the various readings especially at the Guild Complex on Lincoln Ave. Ed wasn't a "schooled" poet. He never attended formal poetry workshops (that I know of). Like his other friend Carlos A. Cortez Koyokuikatl (Singing Coyote) they were working-class grass roots writers. Ed loved Cortez's ability to tell stories, just like they did in the old days. Ed had many of his own stories to share and he did so, esespeciallyfter the successful reception of his first one thousand copies of A DOZEN COLD ONES BY TWO RIVERS.
He launched his first book at the Sunday Green Mill Poetry Slam readings in spring 1992. MC Marc Smith did the introduction and Two Rivers dedelivered great standing-room only reading. Ed loved the audience and they loved him. The book -- was 32 pages of poetry, plus four additional pages of an "open letter" concerning the Paypom Document of 1873, and a poet's "afterword" and art (Lonnie Poco, Comanche) stapled chapbook. A year later another 1,000 copies of A DOZEN COLD ONES was printed and it too also sold out. We discussed doing a third printing but never settled on what changes might be made. Today, I am sorry to say, there are no copies available from March Abrazo Press. So if you have a copy, I hope you treasure it.
In the mean time, Two Rivers was busy taking his own stories and bringing them to the stage with the founding of the first of it's kind Chicago's Red Path Theater Company. Ed also hit the national level with his University of Oklahoma, 1998 short story collection of Survivor's Medicine and his 2001 collection of plays Briefcase Warriors. Ed's next poetry collection appeared 11 years after his debut; with Pow WoWs, Fat Cats, and Other Indian Tales with Mammoth publishers isbn 0939391-33-3. It is a beautiful perfect bound book of 75 pages. Two Rivers had started out with a humble looking emotionally powerful but imperfect (wabe sabe) chapbook. He did what he could to discipline himself to become a writer and playwright. He inspired me to also want to write a play which I did and I dedicated to him. So from Green Bay, Wisconsin where the trees are filled with birds late Saturday night December 27, 2008, our friend went to join the ancestors. May they welcome him.
There will be a memorial for E. Donald Two Rivers in Chicago in a few weeks, maybe in a month, at the American Indian Center 1630 West Wilson Avenue (near Ashland). Let me know if you want the memorial schedule. In the meantime I say (thank you) Megwetch Eddy, I burn sweetgrass and offer tobacco for you my brother.
E. Donald Two-Rivers memorial date and time are set
The official date and location for the memorial to E. Donald Two-Rivers will be:
10 January 2009, 4:00 to 8:00 PM
American Indian Center
1630 W Wilson Avenue (4600 N, just west of Ashland Ave)
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