Maturin Cultural Center, Maturin
Allison Hedge Coke

Allison Hedge Coke, poet, writer, literary performer, activist, educator, has been called a passionately unique and compelling writer and live presenter whose literary and artistic works revealing musicality, imagery, and profound truths of: culture, class, labor, landscape, housing dilemma, homelessness, human rights, Indigenous rights, environmental topics, eco-ethos persuasion, oppression, abuse, violence, the fragility of human condition, the affect of parental insanity on youth and adolescents; alternative truthful history, healing, sacredness of motion, transformative language, possibility and peace have garnished invitations from International events, including: Festival Internacional de Poesia de Rosario (Argentina, 2007); Festival Mundial de la Poesia Venezuela (Caracas, Maturin, Tucupita, 2006); Festival Internacional de Poesia de Medellin (Colombia, 2005, 2007), Scotland, and the Middle East.... Her hundreds of North American keynote presentations and performances include: the United Nations, the Sequoyah Institute; Associated Writing Programs (several cities in the US and in Canada); Poets & Writers (California); Symposium on Wildness, Wilderness and Creative Imagination, Iowa State University; Laborfest, Detroit; WBAI, Free Poetry Hour; Poets Against the War; Writers Voice (several chapters); City Lights Bookstore; Writers Garret (Dallas); the Mayborn Institute (Dallas); Goddard Transformative Language Conference; Writers Week UCR; Naropa University MFA Program; Woodland Pattern; Bookwoman; Carlow University MFA Program; University of West Virginia; Washington & Lee University; Marquette University; University of Wisconsin; Katchemac Bay Writing Conference; Whidbey Writers Conference; Santa Fe Writers Conference; National Poetry Archive, San Francisco State University; St. Mark's Poetry Project; the Bowery Poetry Project; Kenyon College; Ohio State University; Hartwick College, SUNY Oneonta; University of North Carolina Charlotte; Eastern Carolina University; Appalachian State University; University of Minnesota Morris; University of South Dakota; Black Hills State University; South Dakota State University; Northern State University; University of Montana; Montana State University; Center for Western Studies; Western Heritage Museum; Holter Museum; Rochester Technical Institute; California State University Long Beach; California Poets in the Schools Conferences; Santa Barbara Poetry Festival; South Dakota Festival, Center for the Book; Oregon State University; Washington Pavilion; Dahl Fine Arts Center; UC Palm Desert; Rushkin Reading Series, LA; Nebraska Book Festival; Oregon State University; William and Mary ... Broadcasts include: XVII Prometeo International Poetry Festival of Medellin; Australian Broadcast Corporation; Arts on Air, De Paul University; NPR’s Prosody, WYEP; 3rd World Poetry Festival of Venezuela. Multiple recordings in Caracas, Maturin, and Tucupita, Venezuela; United Nations Radio; SDPR Arts Alive, Houseblend, Food for Thought, Dakota Visions; XV Prometeo International Poetry Festival of Medellin; Red Tales Radio; Labor Radio KFAI; New Medicines Festival; AIROS; Native America Calling; Western Heritage Museum; NPR/Yellowstone Public Radio National Public Radio Affiliate; Holter Museum; Writer’s Voice Reading Series YMCA. PBS, Public Libraries, and Public Schools; WBAI, Free Poetry Hour, Peter Lamborn Wilson directed; Naropa Institute and University Performance and Presentation Archives .... Hedge Coke is The Distinguished Paul W. Reynolds and Clarice Kingston Reynolds Endowed Chair in English and Associate Professor of Poetry and Writing at the University of Nebraska, Kearney. There she directs the Reynolds Series bringing quality literary events and opportunities to UNK, Kearney and Central Nebraska. Former posts include: the National Endowment for the Humanities Distinguished Visiting Professor of the Humanities at Hartwick College; MFA Program and English Department Core Faculty at Northern Michigan University; Faculty in Residence, SUNY Oneonta; Kilian College; SD Arts Alliance Board Member; Sioux Falls Housing Corporation Board Community Advocate Member; Director, Ventura Repertory Theater; Revitalization Task Force Member, Whittier Neighborhood; ICWA advocate; CASA advocate; Director, Writers Voice; CPITS Area Coordinator; and alternative community writer in residence positions in eight states. She works with incarcerated youth in LAMIYSD and Arts Corr and regularly serves as a writer in residence in schools, state hospitals, and libraries for the South Dakota Arts Council. She was born in Texas while her father worked for Philips and the Dept. of Agriculture, was raised and came of age in North Carolina sharecropping tobacco and breaking horses, waiting tables and packing crackers in factories, and later worked as a teenage migrant worker, as well as in construction and commercial fishing in her teens and early adult life. Hedge Coke lived outside in the fields and on the streets for a portion of her youth and early adulthood. Her life was complicated by multiple affects, including poverty, classicism, and racism; prejudice toward children of the insane; and personal medical malady. She had completely lost oxygen during a forceps delivery, thus was born with Cerebral Palsy and temporal lobe epilepsy. She was allergic to milk and one reaction in infancy triggered cataracts in both eyes. She was breathed back to life again due to asthma at two months. Had suffered gangrene of the throat from untreated tonsillitis by six years of age, and had numerous ear infections (subsequent tortuous lancings), pneumonias, many challenging childhood illnesses, as well as continual joint and bone complications. She was suicidal by the age of seven and fell into alcohol and mainline drug abuse as an adolescent, but remarkably withdrew fully from both, unassisted by medication, before she was of legal age. Her ethnically mixed mother suffered chronic schizophrenia and was hospitalized numerous times in Hedge Coke's childhood and adult life (Underwood, the Pavilion, Dorthea Dix), until Hedge Coke fled the South, following her older sister, who was working in printing and studying history on the west coast, and finally won a co-conservatorship (with her sister) of her mother. Together, they moved her parents away from North Carolina, and sought private mental health care for her mother, thereby somewhat changing the eventual course of the illness by putting her on appropriate medications rather than constant shock treatments which had little effect on the madness but caused a great amount of damage, complicated the paranoia and erased thirty-some years of her mother's memory. Portions of this segment of Hedge Coke's life were chronicled in her memoir: Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer and two poetry books: Dog Road Woman (American Book Award) and Off-Season City Pipe (Wordcraft Writer of the Year Award for Poetry). (Off-Season City Pipe is also a full volume of labor and class writing. Perhpas the first Indigenous labor volume published in poetry.) At one point, she had endured gross physical violence toward her in a hard Southern marriage and continually fled with her two children only to eventually end up in a literal rat den where she battled wharf rats until she and the young children could escape that place as well. The life episode is captured in the chapbook, The Year of the Rat, which contains a long poem also found in the books, Dog Road Woman and Visit Tee Pee Town. Reading before the age of three and finishing her first novel, Beautiful Joe, by four, though educational courses proved easy for her in childhood, life was not. She completed her first memoir draft at age eleven, Diary of a Mad Housewife's Daughter, inspired by a popular film and destroyed the book when her English teacher shared it with other educators as a 'novel' not realizing it was an account of her current life. She was rebellious and depressed throughout much of her primary years, for a time threw herself into sports and music, then fell into substance abuse, and finally, after a fight with a principal, whereas the principal during an accusatory rant struck her, whereas Hedge Coke dropped out of school in the initial days of high school, and went to work in the fields and various other labors to support herself and ease the financial burden her mother's illness caused the family. By this time of her teen life she had completed a manuscript of poetry and began to share her works in certain circles. She once spoke to the North Carolina Legislature at age fourteen for women's and Indigenous rights. After obtaining a GED (finished at 16 but not awarded until 18, Wake Tech), she went on to study photography, traditional arts, and writing in public community education programs at NCSU. She worked in music off and on during her teen years and young adulthood, publishing and recording several songs and working for professional musicians occassionally. In her early adulthood, while having two children and continually struggling to escape a violent marriage she began to teach in alternative and after school community arts programs. Leaving North Carolina for Tennessee and then California, she then studied theater and script (PPAC Estelle Harmon's and Circle Theater) while working as an artist in residence, a collections manager and historical interpreter for the City of San Buena Ventura, and as a director for both the American Indian Registry of Performing Arts and the Ventura Repertory Theater (completing a playscript regarding schizophrenia, Icicles), then received an AFAW in Creative Writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts before taking the GRE and successfully skipping her bachelors degree to earn an MFA in Poetry at Vermont College, where she stayed for a post-grad semester in prose. Her first published volume, Dog Road Woman, was submitted to Coffee House Press her first semester of graduate school and won the American Book Award when they released it four years later. Additionally, she was a prize fellow at Naropa University (twice) and studied psychology in various CEU programs. Hedge Coke has since taught in second-chance high school, adult education, pre-k, k-12, college, university, graduate, alternative (juvenile facilities, mental hospitals, rural and reservation schools, gifted and talented programs, honors programs, special ed, autistic, migrant and refugee programs, ESL, ELL, LEP, SAIL, AIS, Literacy, domestic violence shelters, healing and health programs, CD programs ....), and professional programs for over twenty five years as of this writing. She has been entirely active as a youth and Indigenous community advocate, in mediation and in support of peace, permanence of Indigenous cultures, and environmental protection. Her work for dignity in labor and in domestic crisis has been noted and is apparent in her literary works. Hedge Coke says she thinks in music and searches continually to find the language to support the notions of muse. She often credits her father's cultural oratory, love, culture, eco-ethos (nurture to nurture) philosophy, and guidance for allowing her to learn to couple the beautiful and the horrendous with historical notion to allow the personal and community dignity she needed to mediate her childhood and negotiate life. Her parents are living and in their late 80s. She has one surviving sister (a 38 year journeyman printer, journalist, and activist) and one surviving brother (a drug addict/laborer); two adult children (both trained artists, one a fiction writer), three grandchildren and a host of other people who at one time were dependent youth in her home, thus several other children that call her Grandma as well. Honors include: • The Distinguished Paul W. Reynolds and Clarice Kingston Reynolds Endowed Chair in English. University of Nebraska, Kearney. 2007-2012. [Appointed.] •Journal of the Year Award, Editing, Wordcraft Circle. 2006 & 2007. [Internal Nomination.] • Delegate, United Nations Women in Peacemaking Conference, Joan B. Kroc Center for Peace and Justice, University of San Diego. San Diego, CA. Fall 2006. [Initiating dialogue to involve more Indigenous Americans (full hemisphere with US and Canada specific dialogue) in United Nations Peacekeeping/Peacemaking efforts despite over-representation by mainstream US citizenry.] [Appointed Delegate.] •Final Judge, writing competitions, Cream City Review, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. Milwaukee, WI. Fall 2006. [Invitational.] •United Nations Presenting Speaker. Indigenous Peoples Human Rights Forum. New York, NY. Spring 2006. [Correlations between publishing in Indigenous communities and ratio of human rights violations upon those communities.] [Invitational.] •Black Earth Institute, Fellow. Black Earth Institute. Madison, WI. 2005-2008. [Invited Fellow.] [Current] •King*Chavez*Parks Faculty Award. State of Michigan/NMU. Marquette, MI. 2005. [Appointed.] •Writer of the Year Award, Wordcraft Circle. 2005 & 2007. [Internal Nomination.] •Final Judge, Student Writing Competition Wayne State University. Detroit, MI. Spring 2005. [Invitational.] •National Endowment for the Humanities Appointment Distinguished Visiting Professor, Hartwick College. Oneonta, NY. Fall 2004. [Invitational Appointment.] •Book-of-the-Month, Native America Calling, for Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer. August 2004. [Nonfiction.] •Excellence in Literary Arts Award, Mayor's Awards, Sioux Empire Arts Council. 2003. Nominee in additional categories. [Community Nominations.] • Excellence in Teaching Award Grant, Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation. Sioux Falls, SD. 2002. •Artist Fellowship, South Dakota Arts Council. SD. 2002. •National Mentor of the Year, Wordcraft Circle. 2001. [Internal Nomination.] •Touring Artist Grants and Tours for South Dakota Arts Council. SD. Annually 2000-2005. •Pushcart Nomination. 2000 [By Arthur Sze.] •Reading Rainbow Judge, writing contest, second and third grade judge, South Dakota Public Broadcast System. 2000. [Invitational.] •Dakota Visions Touring Artist. SD. 1999-2000. • Individual Artist Project Grant (formerly Fellowship for the Arts), South Dakota State Arts Council. SD. 1999. • “News Flash: Tagging Death” nominated for Pushcart. 1999. [Published XCP.] •DOG ROAD WOMAN. Winner American Book Award, The Before Columbus Foundation, American Booksellers Association. 1998. Finalist, The Paterson Poetry Prize. 1998. Finalist, the Returning the Gift Poetry Prize. 1997. •Resident Fellow, The MacDowell Colony. Petersborough, New Hampshire. Fall 1996. •Charlie and Thelma Willis Memorial Award Editor’s Choice (Cid Corman), Abiko Quarterly International. Japan. 1995. [Editor Selection.] •New Mexico Press Women’s Association Writing Award & Scholarship, New Mexico Press Women’s Association c/o The New Mexico Magazine, Emily Drabranski, President. Albuquerque, NM. 1993. [Nonfiction.] •Zora Neale Hurston Award, MFA Writing Program at the Naropa Institute. Boulder, CO. 1993. •Naropa Poetry Prize/Fellowship. 1991-1992. [Joint Red Elk Scholarship Naropa MFA program]. Boulder, CO. 1992. [Internal Nominations.] •Artist Residency, Atlantic Center for the Arts. New Smyrna Beach, FL. 1992. DIRECTED Directed, Promoted, Created, Introduced, over fifty literary and performance productions between 1982 and 2007. Some of which include the following: Directed, Promoted, Created, Introduced Northern Plains Intertribal Poetry Bout, WPBA Sanctioned, Joe Hipp Championship Tribute. Ventura Theater. Billings, Montana. July 2004. [Broadcast video/audiotapes.] [NPR covered.] Directed, Queens New York (premiere) three-act play by Angelo Michael Masino. Hollywood, CA. Also several scenes and monologues produced in Hollywood at the Avenue Theatre and Alley Theatre, La Brea Street. Numerous other scenes and one-acts over the course of four years in Los Angeles. 1985-1989. [Variety Reviewed.] Directed and co-produced two shows on Tennessee Cable TV “Rabbit Run” and “Bluegrass to Blues.” 1982-1985. BOOKS AUTHORED REVIEWED/NOTED IN: The Academy of American Poets; Booklist; Publisher’s Weekly; American Indian Culture and Research Journal; Altar Magazine; American Indian Quarterly; Atlantis; Billings Gazette; The Cambridge Companion to Native American Literature; Catalyst; Cold Mountain Review; Etc. Magazine; The Fourth Genre; Great Plains Quarterly; Hate Crimes & Civil Rights; New Pages; St. Mark’s Poetry Place; Southwest/Texas Popular Culture Association Conference; Star Tribune; Quiet Mountain Reviews…. SCHOLARLY/FIELD WORK REVIEWED/NOTED IN: The Cambridge Companion; Poets & Writers Magazine; South Dakota Magazine; the Mississippi Review; Indian Country Today, Berea College, Union Institute Magazine, People’s Tribune…. INTERVIEWS INCLUDE: Poets & Writers Magazine; Quiet Mountain Reviews; the Power of Words, social and personal transformation through the spoken, written and sung word, The Transformative Language Program, Goddard, Cary Mirriam-Goldberg & Janet Tallman, Ed. 2007; Mississippi Review; El Colombiano; Rosario/12... TERMINOLOGY DEFINED: “Cultural Duty” in Free Press Notes 1991; “Congenital Memory” in XCP, Mark Nowak, ed, 2006; PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS: Academy of American Poets, AWP, PEN America, PEN USA, PEN International, PSA, ASAIL, MLA, MMLA, SEWSA, North Carolina Writer’s Network, AAUP, AFTRA, CAMP. (Current and past.) INTERESTS: Poetry; Prose; Literary Art; American and Indigenous Literary Movements; Oratory, Oral Traditions and Traditional and Transformative Educative Processes; Abstract and Critical Reasoning and Thinking; Indigenous, First Nations, and Multicultural Literatures; Ancient and Recent Indigenous Mound Cities; Indigenous Astronomy and Sciences; Indigenous Pictographs and Traditional Arts; Indigenous Cultural Knowledge; Peace Theory; Peacemaking; Possibilities of Peace through Poetry and Performance; Human Condition—Frailty; Cultivating Pan-American Indigenous Exchange; Philosophy; Art; the Affect of Parental Mental Illness upon Creative Process; Creative Process; Imagination and Possibility; Societal Conditioning Resulting in Apathy and Criminal Behavior; Mentorship for the Insane and Incarcerated; Working-Class and Labor Writing; Working-Class and Labor Concerns; Fieldworkers; Cultural Philosophy through the Arts and Literature; Pluralism; Effective Teaching; Theater; Film; Scriptwriting; Painting; Sculpture, Song; the Natural World; Environmental Dilemma; Sustainability and the Arts; Coupling the Beautiful, the Horrendous, and Historical Knowledge to Recreate Life Experience and Coping through Writing; Linguistics; Healing Domestic and Societal Violence; and Uniting/Reuniting Indigenous Peoples Despite Oppressive Measures. Other experience includes: Cultural, community, hemispheric, and global activism, peacemaking, negotiations and mediation, organizing, sharecropping tobacco, traditional agriculture, commercial fishing and bass angling, construction work (carpentry, heavy equipment operation), landscaping, literary arts, performing arts, singing, theater, dance, photography, filmmaking, painting and sculpture (recent shows include works in the Paterson Museum, Paterson, New Jersey and in Primitive Edge Gallery of the Institute of American Indian Arts). Speaking/Performing Engagements may be booked through Speakers for a New America: (800)691-6888 or email NGE



1. Blood Run, Earthworks Series, Salt Publishing. Cambridge, England. Fall 2006. Wordcraft Circle Writer of the Year Award. 2007. Poetry/Verse-Play.] [Published.]

2. Off-Season City Pipe, Coffee House Press. Minneapolis, MN. Spring 2005. Wordcraft Circle Writer of the Year Award. 2005. [Poetry.]  [Published.]

3. Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer. The University of Nebraska Bison Books: Lincoln, Nebraska. May 2004. [Memoir.] 

4. Dog Road Woman, Coffee House Press. Minneapolis, MN. Spring 1997. American Book Award 1998. [Poetry.]  [Published.]

5. The Year of the Rat, Grimes. Ventura, CA. 1996. [Chapbook. Poetry.] [Published.]


1. Effigies.  Editor, Salt Publications. UK. 2007. Wordcraft Circle Journal of the Year Award. 2007. [Poetry.] [In Press.]

2. To Topos. Ahani: Indigenous American Poetry. Theme Indigenous Americas, Indigenous poetry from the Arctic Circle Inuit to the Mapuche in Chile. 2006. Guest Editor, Oregon State University’s International Journal.  [Poetry.] [Published.]

3. They Wanted Children, Editor, Sioux Falls School District Press. Sioux Falls, SD. An anthology of coping, from American Indian, Sudanese, Latino, African American and other students of color and diverse experience attending Lincoln High School. 2003. [Poetry.] [Published.]

4. Coming to Life, Editor, Sioux Falls School District Press. Sioux Falls, SD. An anthology of writing providing meditative field in the aftermath of the 9-11 events, from the four Sioux Falls high schools. Sioux Falls, SD. 2002. [Poetry.] [Published.]

5. Voices of Thunder, Co-Editor, Institute for the American Indian Arts. Santa Fe, NM. 1993. Anthology. [Poetry/Prose.] [Published.]

6. It’s Not Quiet Anymore, Senior Editor, Institute for the American Indian Arts: Santa Fe, NM. 1992. Anthology. [Poetry/Prose.] [Published.]


Thursday, October 11, 2007 3:09AM


The Internacional Festival de Poesia de Rosario was a terrific gathering of outstanding world and local poets. The audience proved remarkably sincere and generous. Highlights included the reading at the prison, featured readings, a talk on bilingual poetics, and dinner in the home of a host family of writer/academics who have devoted their lives to preservation of marginalized languages. Just in, more later...

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