The Song of Hiawatha

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Words from the achiever

“I suspect a lot of people are stutterers and somehow overcome it. I’m still a stutterer, but we all find a way to mask it. I was resigned to it as a kid. From about ten years old, when I was approaching serious school work, the teacher accepted that I could do all my reporting with a pencil. I didn’t have to speak. That was okay. I was kind of quiet.But in high school, I met Professor Donald Crouch. He began to channel me toward speaking again, toward acknowledging and appreciating the beauty of words by using my own poetry and then other poets. I was writing words of my own and he said, “Do you like these words? Do you like the way they sound in your head? Well, they sound ten times better when you give ’em out in the air. It’s too bad you can’t say these words.”In the wintertime, in the snow country, citrus fruit was so rare, that if you got one, it was better than ambrosia. It was better than a peach; it was better than anything you can imagine from exotic worlds. I poured my heart out in a poem, Ode to Grapefruit, about the wonders of grapefruit. I used the meter of Longfellow’s Hiawatha, just as Longfellow imitated the Finnish author of Kalavalaa.Donald Crouch used that as a reason to challenge me. He said, “This is a good poem. It’s so good, I don’t think you wrote it. To prove you wrote it, get up in front of the class and say it out loud.” I don’t know whether he concocted that challenge or not, but he really meant it. And I got up and I said it and didn’t stutter. Nice surprise. I didn’t know if I was happy or not. I was in shock and awe.”

About the book

The great narrative poem of a Native American hero and his magic powers, by 19th Century America’s favorite poet.

You shall hear how Hiawatha prayed and fasted in the forest,
Not for greater skill in hunting,
Not for greater craft in fishing,
Not for triumphs in the battle,
And renown among the warriors,
But for profit of the people,
For advantage of the nations.