To the Great Mother or Bust: Richard Hill’s Poetry Reading

By Michelle “Kanatihal” Hilllotni hill

Richard “Lotni” Hill is a young poet with a very old soul and when he shook his longhouse rattle it became the key that unlocked the door to his heart. He looked around at all who gathered, engaging the spirit of each. We were at the Oneida Veteran’s Affairs building for the “Poetry for the Soul Fundraiser” on Sunday, May 22nd. We feasted on chili, corn soup, fry bread, and desserts to raise funds to send his family to the Great Mother Conference in Maine. The food was delicious, but Lotni and his poetry were the main event that day.

Lotni began by reading some Robert Bly pieces in honor of the event, as Bly was the founder of the Great Mother Conference many years ago. He then read some old and new material of his own. His words became like a cool mist on a summer sunrise as he calmly read from his poem “Sitting Still We Fly Over An Ocean of Land Like.” A favorite line of mine was, “Sitting around like two old buckets, we collect the sky water till we tip, and our water is sweet and our dark earth is drunk on the sky…”

His words flow together genuinely and sincerely as he meshed his emotions into his creation. With a lulled strum of his guitar and a cool, rhythmic voice, Lotni read “All That Is Mother.” It was in the voice of an elder from centuries ago, gently nudging us, reminding us to appreciate all that we are and all that is.

Listening to him read his work was like sinking your feet into the cool brown earth of home, a home you wished you could visit more often. Yet as those of us present chilled there with him momentarily, it was as if the worries of life cruised past, going 10 miles over the speed limit. Our worries were fine without us and this was a time for us to pause and enjoy the comforts we forgot we needed.

The entire audience was quiet, as if sitting around listening to campfire stories. Later, an elder woman came up to me and expressed her enjoyment of Lotni’s reading. She spoke of how relaxing his presence is. As I glanced around, the audience too was genuine and sincere about its presence.

I admired Lotni’s bravery for exposing his soul to the audience as he did, as I have seen him do before. Listening to him reminded me that poetry is but one form of soul communication. Lotni’s work is love and connection and as always, I walked away inspired to hold tight to the gift of writing.

Michelle “Kanatihal” Hill is an Oneida writer.