Tony Soprano, Ojibwe Poetry, and “Technicians of the Sacred”

Friday, March 14, 2008 - 1:17 pm

Tony Soprano, Ojibwe Poetry, and “Technicians of the Sacred”

We do talk about big ideas at work. But we also talk about what TV shows we are catching up on. I happen to be watching the final season of The Sopranos on DVD. I will not include a spoiler here. But I will mention a minor but significant plot element that occurrs in one episode — an Ojibwe poem I first read in the break-through anthology Technicians of the Sacred years ago. Here it is, in one of its many variant forms:

Sometimes I
I go about pitying
While I am carried by the wind
Across the sky.

Seeing this poem turn up on TV was like bumping into an old friend in an unexpected place after many years. Watching the haunting impact it had on Tony Sorprano reminded me of my first reading of it, which might be something like: “Get over yourself. Life is changeable and various.”

But I actually learned something from Tony Soprano’s take on it, which I would characterize as slightly different — and oddly even more positive — than mine: “Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Life is a long, wonderful journey.”

Technicians of the Sacred changed how many writers thought about literature and poetry in the 1970s. It’s gratifying to see that it is still being carried by the wind across the sky.

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