Robert Davis Hoffmann is a poet and a carver. He is a Tlingit Indian from Southeast Alaska, a member of the Tsaagweidi clan and Xaay Hit (Yellow Cedar House of Kake, Alaska). His Tlingit name is Xaashuch’eet. Davis is the author of SoulCatcher, a collection of poetry published by Ravens Bones Press, Sitka, in 1986. His poems have been featured in the following anthologies: Into the Storm, Orca Press, 1984; In the Dreamlight: Twenty- One Alaskan Writers, Copper Canyon Press, 1984; Harper’s Anthology of Twentieth Century Native American Poetry, Harper & Row, 1988; Dancing on the Rim of the World: An Anthology of Contemporary Northwest Native American Writing, The University of Arizona Press, 1990; Raven Tells Stories: An Anthology of Alaskan Native Writing, The Greenfield Review Press, 1991; Strong Hearts: Native American Visions and Voices, The Aperture Foundation, 1995; Alaska Native Writers, Storytellers, and Orators: The Expanded Edition, Alaska Quarterly Review, 1999; Native Universe: Voices of Indian America, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, 2004.
Robert Davis Hoffmann is a poet fully engaged in his heritage and culture. He describes the creative impulse for his poetry and carving this way: “My desire to create comes from a drive to connect my past to the present, stated in my poem Saginaw Bay: ‘. . . I keep going back, I keep trying to see myself against all this history . . .’ When I create new forms out of the old, using nontraditional materials and styles, I bridge the past and the present. Our ancestors knew there were spirits in everything; they spoke to places, they thanked the cedar, they spoke to the creatures, they spoke to their tools. My art contains my ‘thought conversations.’ But the materials already possessed their inherent power. My job as an artist is simply to rearrange what is, just as re-telling is the job of the storyteller. As I am creating, I am merely re-creating.”
Acknowledgments: Thirteen poems in this feature section are published for the first time. Three poems are reprinted with permission of the author. Grateful acknowledgment is made as follows: “Saginaw Bay: I Keep Coming Back” was originally published in SoulCatcher, Ravens Bones Press, 1986. “Leveling Grave Island” and “Danger Point, Bainbridge Island” originally appeared in Dancing on the Rim of the World, edited by Andrea Lerner, University of Arizona Press, 1990.