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Discuss about the E. Pauline Johnson’s Poems.


Pauline Johnson has a diversified and ethnic background which is clearly depicted in her poetry. She also used the pen name Tekahionwake which again has its Mohawk origin this name was used along with her European name and she chose it to emphasize her position as an Aboriginal. In a time when women authors used pseudonym of men to publish literary work, Johnson not only chose to stand up for her gender but also her ethnicity. She respected and had great honor for both the cultures she represented and that is depicted in her poem over and over again. As a stage performer the drama reflected in her poetry as well. She is well-known as the Mohawk poet in the literary world; she became the first Native American author to be published in Canada. Her book The White Wampumgave her literary recognition. She also received a lot of goodwill and fame owing to her performance skills, her image always reflected and demanded respect for her ethnicity. Her poems are all a condensed form of the experiences she has been through (Goertz 2015).  

In the poem “The Song My Paddle Sings”, is metaphor of life sailing in a musical. The poem has a melodious tone to it and represents the hardships of life that she had to face. The absence of wind and the struggle of the man to canoe through the river are the representation of life testing her patience as she sails through. It also shows her respect for nature and the course that has been chosen for her, she wades through the tough time to move ahead in the direction of future. The rhythm of the poem is very captivating and charming as it mimics the paddle strokes of the sailor breaking the monotone of the milieu. The solitude and remoteness of her life is been depicted by the lonely sailor wadding through a serine backdrop (Jones and Ferris 2017).

Another popular poem by E. Pauline Johnson is A Cry from an Indian Wife, is based on the Riel Rebellion of 1884. The poem exhibits how Aboriginal thinking processes were being made mandatory to adapt to European perspectives and demand. A Cry from an Indian Wife is written in iambic pentameter and is represented by her increasingly vocal concerns about the aboriginal people and an advocate for their rights; the thoughts of the narrator are placed into a linear descriptive sequence in a monologue. This poem depicts a strong base of bloody, political, and non-hesitant to reveal racism and despicable behavior by Europeans. In this poem the character is having an unbiased perspective and can see from both the side of the conflict, as a symbolic incentive to her listeners to understand and look into the matters from the perspective of a native. The soliloquy is presented as Middleton's troops are marching west to crush the Riel Rebellion (Dickinson 2017). It explains the dilemma and the hardships a wife has to endure while she recommends her husband to join the fight against the troops from Ontario(Jones and Ferris 2017). She the changes her mind, imagining that the lands were owned by the Indians and the whites would have no sympathy for her or her husband as she does not want to lose her husband as well. She then reconciles thinking that the people who are the other troop are also someone’s husband or son and how could she ask her husband to cause someone else’s grief. But lastly she gives up and sends he husband off to fight for the troops (Goertz 2015). The wife does not compromise in her decision there is a part within her which is proud of her husband being a part of the troop. The use of the rhythmic couplet form in the poetry to illustrate the judgment of the Aboriginal narrator gives evidence to the infringement of the European culture upon the aboriginal (Johnson 2015).

Her poetic style is a representation of her considerate personality and her articulate knowledge about the politics around aboriginal people. Through her work and literature she constant she reciprocated to the stress enforced on those of her ethnicity and gender with great critical and commercial success. Her approach to place the concerns related to aboriginal people to the European settlement was successful as she had immence understanding of both the cultures on an equal stand point. She was successful in her endeavor in reaching out to the people as her audience and her readers gained a lot of knowledge about the hardships of aboriginals through her work.



Dickinson, S., 2017. To “Hear the Call of the Singing Firs”:(Re) Reading E. Pauline Johnson’s “Lost Lagoon” as Eco-Elegy. Making Nineteenth-Century Literary Environments.

Goertz, K., 2015. The Mohawk Princess Writes and Recites: How Pauline Johnson Battled Negative Indian Stereotypes through her Performances and Prose. The Albatross, 5(1), pp.36-51.

Johnson, E.P., 2015. Tekahionwake: E. Pauline Johnson's Writings on Native North America. Broadview Press.

Jones, M. and Ferris, N., 2017. Flint, Feather, and Other Material Selves: Negotiating the Performance Poetics of E. Pauline Johnson. American Indian Quarterly, 41(2), pp.125-157.


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