Carolyn Dunn,
Outfoxing Coyote
(That Painted Horse, 2002)

Carolyn Dunn's poetry draws on Native American stories and imagery to order the experiences of contemporary life. Dunn's poems are both personal and universal, and she transfigures the everyday experiences of her life through the mystical beings who inhabit her Creek/Cherokee/Seminole heritage.

Coyote, the alluring, treacherous trickster, transforms experience, often with unexpected and surprising results. The book's title poem tells us that he's a teller of stories that "don't always have endings." Sometimes he's human, sometimes animal and always godlike, a giver of knowledge and survival.

Deer Woman, like, Coyote, is a shape-shifter, but those who see her dancing are bewitched until they waste away and die. In "Deerskin," Deer Woman dances with the sun, learning "the difference between the story of the deer and the fragile skin of the woman, the fear in the eyes of the hunted, the blessing and burden of myth."

In Dunn's poems, common experiences are re-examined and redefined through myth. But her imagery is firmly grounded in the concreteness of solid reality. In "The Water Jar, " for example, she makes us feel the depth and cold of the water:

Touches skin
and flakes
like sharp
obsidian beads
ground to
thick dark shells
that cover
cold skin
gray to touch
when dug up
from the mud

The most satisfying poetry shows us variations of our own life experiences metamorphosed by the language of the poet. Dunn's poems do that, recreating the passion, humor, and irony of everyday experiences transformed to mythic proportions.

- Rambles
written by Janice Snapp
published 30 August 2003

Buy it from