Join us for an afternoon of poetry with Gwen Westerman at the 15th annual Pankake Poetry event in Elmer L. Andersen Library on April 3, 2024.
Dr. Gwen Nell Westerman is the author of “Follow the Blackbirds” (Michigan State University Press, 2013), a poetry collection written in Dakota and English, and co-author of “Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota” (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2012), which won a 2013 Minnesota Book Award and a 2014 Hognander Minnesota History Award.
The recipient of the Douglas R. Moore Faculty Research Award and three Artist Initiative Grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board, Westerman is the first indigenous poet laureate of Minnesota. Her new poetry collection — “Songs, Blood Deep” (Holy Cow! Press, 2023) is published in English and Dakota. Westerman’s recorded poetry is also featured in the new permanent exhibit “Native Truths: Our Voices, Our Stories” at the Field Museum in Chicago, which opened in May 2022. She is the first Indigenous Poet Laureate, and also the first person of color to be Poet Laureate.
Westerman teaches American and Native Nations literature, technical communication, humanities, and creative writing at Minnesota State University, Mankato. In 2022, Westerman received an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowship.
Westerman holds a B.A. and M.A. in English from Oklahoma State University, and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Kansas. She lives in southern Minnesota, as did her Dakota ancestors. Her roots are deep in the landscape of the tallgrass prairie from Oklahoma to Minnesota and reveal themselves in her art and writing through the languages and traditions of her family. She has worked as a proofreader, a waitress, an editor, a sandwich delivery driver, a technical writer, and a teacher.