New Issues Poetry & Prose - WMU
TitlesSubmission GuidelinesOrderingDonateAbout Us

Gladys Cardiff

Gladys Cardiff

Gladys Cardiff's poems have appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies, including such essential gatherings of Native American poetry as Carriers of the Dream Wheel, From the Belly of the Shark, Songs from this Earth on Turtle’s Back, That’s What She Said, Harpers Anthology of 20th Century Native American Poetry, and Reinventing the Enemy‘s Language. Cardiff grew up in Seattle, Washington, and received degrees in creative writing from the University of Washington. She received her Doctorate at Western Michigan University and is a professor at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan.

Also by Gladys Cardiff

  • To Frighten a Storm (1976)



A Bare Unpainted Table

A Bare Unpainted TableA Bare Unpainted Table

$12.00 paper | $22.00 cloth
ISBN: 978-0-932826-67-1 (paper)
ISBN: 978-0-932826-69-5 (cloth)
Publication Date: February 1999
61 Pages
Buy: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | ShopWMU | UPNE

An Inland Seas Poetry Book

Gladys Cardiff is an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee, and a member of the Native Writers' Circle of the Americas. Her small book, To Frighten a Storm, from Copper Canyon Press, won the Washington State Governor's First Book Award in 1976. These are poems from a mature and wise consciousness that understands loss, grief, and the value of the unassailable "solaces we yearn for." One emerges from Cardiff’s intense, complex meditations with a renewed sense of both the durability of the human spirit and its potential.

"Cardiff's words are photographs of love and the double exposures of emotion. She captures the tenor of planes, the cartographies of moon and water. Her lines are cantilevers where two worlds meet."
        —Diane Glancy

"When I first encountered the poems of Gladys Cardiff, almost two decades ago, I was struck by their power. Her first small collection of poems, To Frighten a Storm, drew its strength not only from her understanding of Cherokee culture, but also from the eloquent clarity of her language and her insight into the human heart. It was poetry that was deeply traditional and uniquely original. This long-awaited major collection demonstrates how Cardiff’s voice has grown and matured while losing none of that early energy. These literate, passionate poems of family and history, journeys of body and spirit, should find a wide and appreciative audience."
        —Joseph Bruchac

"[Gladys Cardiff] is often grasped by something seen – a Victorian postcard picture of a stereotyped Indian woman, luna moths, Giacometti's changing use of space, two flocks of crows, a single crow; but also by situations – the final days of a couple's pet shop, a recording of a fatal airplane crash, an elder's courteous speech about repatriation, and someone else's need. Usually a poem has a comfortable length of line for its purpose, unfolds, and becomes complete (there is also a pantoum). One feels in the presence of eyes that see much, of maturity not easily won."
        —The Virginia Quarterly Review



She wondered "were they going far or returning—"
the lines of telephone wire parting the snow?
Lines giving direction and beauty, black oracles
showing her how distance falls through the curve of space.

The lines of telephone wires parting the snow
are scalloped like the fallen slip straps on her white arm,
showing her, oh, how distance falls through the curve of space
while the children play their imaginary games.

A scallop, the fallen slip strap on her white arm
drives him wild, makes him glad for the walls, and door he closes
while the children play their imaginary games.
The India ink notes, the neat bones of her hunger

drive him wild, make him glad for the walls, the doors he closes.
Flute, and clarinet, the bell of her voice soar
out of the notes. The clean bones of her hunger
fly out the window, out of the Montana winter.

Flute, clarinet, and the bell of her voice soar
in the sequences of love and love's consequences,
flying out the door, out of the Montana winter,
falling at the last like coins on a sheet of paper.

In the sequence of love and love's consequences,
lines giving direction and meaning, oracles
falling at last like coins on a sheet of paper.
She wondered to see how going far means returning.