Manitou Rapids poet publishes first book

“We wrapped your memories for you in safe bundles
Throughout the land of Anishinaabe Akiing
Ancestors leading us home . . .”
—“Migrations,” Al Hunter
Al Hunter’s book, “Spirit Horses” is hot off the presses. It’s so new, in fact, that Hunter himself has only a few copies.
The poems discuss the changing landscape through the seasons, as well as relationships. Titles include “Equinox II,” “Seven Horses,” and “Legacies.”
His poetry has been published in many journals and anthologies, including “Canadian Literature” and “Days of Obsidian, Days of Grace, Poetry and Prose,” but this is his first book.
Now 44, his first poem ever published was in the Rainy River Record when he was just 10 years old.
In the summer of 2000, he and his wife, Sandra Indian, led “A Walk to Remember”—a 1,200-mile sacred journey around Lake Superior—“to bring forth community visions of protecting the air, land, and water for the Seven Generations yet to come.”
His love and respect for the environment is displayed in many of his poems.
“We wanted to bring people’s attention to the sanctity of water and dwindling resources, and wanted to find out why people live near the water,” Hunter recalled.
Renowned aboriginal writer Louise Erdrich was quoted on the book jacket: “Al Hunter’s poems are healing songs for the earth and the human spirit. For the sake of the moon, for the sake of our hearts, I am glad he is writing.”
Hunter was modest about Erdrich’s praise. “She’s been really good to me,” he said.
He’s a community worker with Rainy River First Nations, but said he’s a writer first and foremost.
“I used to get up really early and write about whatever was in my visual sphere,” he recounted. “I think we’re so inseparably tied to the natural world. I wanted to recreate it in my writing.
“I see each poem as a ‘Spirit Horse,’” he added. “I wanted to have a theme, a metaphor, throughout the book.”
Hunter’s understanding of nature and the environment was self-taught through observation, he explained. He attended university in Minnesota, studying liberal arts, which he said helped him learn about the technical part of writing—and taught him about many poets and writers.
Many of his poems are open to interpretation, and Hunter likes it that way. “I’m not here to proselytize,” he stressed, adding the reader doesn’t have to choose an outlook nor will he tell a reader what the poem was about.
Hunter said his publisher, Kegedonce, has been wonderful to work. “Kegedonce let me choose the sequence of the poems,” he noted—something almost unheard of in the industry.
Kegedonce also allowed him to choose his own illustrator, Leo Yerxa, another rarity in publishing, especially for a new author. Yerxa is from Couchiching originally but now lives in Ottawa.
There will be a book signing at Northwoods Gallery and Gifts on Scott Street on April 27. He’ll also be at Chapters in Thunder Bay the previous day. His book only is available online for now at www.kegedonce.com
Hunter is now working on his second book.