Tracking the Fox
by Rosalie Sanara Petrouske
First Place Winner of The Poetry Box Chapbook Prize, 2022
In Tracking the Fox, Rosalie Sanara Petrouske weaves a tale of family ties and history. The poems are steeped in her Native American heritage and in the natural lore her Ojibwe father taught her. Skilled in descriptive writing, she allows the readers to see waterfalls, hear winds howling, and smell delicate flowers in full bloom. They will walk with her and her father through fields of native grasses, along snowy animal tracks, and down wooded paths. As you read these poems, Tracking the Fox, draws you into Rosalie’s story and leaves you a little closer to the natural world.
Early Praise for Tracking the Fox:
The poems in Tracking the Fox unfold at the slow pace of a hike in the woods, inviting the pleasures and joys of nature, while never turning away from the shared struggles and pain of the poet’s Ojibwe heritage. Hers is a fearless language that holds it all, like the black ash basket she weaves with her daughter, welcoming every reader with each personal, conversational, and precise poem. This is an ambitious, necessary voice committed to truth-telling and the naming of creatures, large and small, that make up our world. In “The Sky I Was Born Under,” written in homage to U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo’s piece of the same name, she describes the scene of her own birth, ending with the lines: “I wailed for the first time, my voice/ ricocheted in the stillness,/ and all the forest creatures paused to listen.” Tracking the Fox will cause us all to pause and listen to the hard-won work of this poet coming into her own as a Native American woman and mother, promising: “we shall let our voices be heard.”
—James Crews, contest judge
poet, editor of How to Love the World
Replete with the flora and fauna of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Rosalie Sanara Petrouske’s Tracking the Fox takes readers on a spiritual journey imbued with the presence of her Ojibwe father, her “true north” whose teachings filled her with “the natural rhythms” of the world around her. In the first poem, Rosalie Sanara Petrouske turns “The Medicine Bag” of her father’s family inside out, discovering sacred objects; ancestral stories of the struggle for existence despite harsh winters and brutal racism; and the tenderness of a father’s love. These “filaments…drift down” throughout the collection as the poet deftly weaves the beauty of forests and rain, sweetgrass and stars with the affirmation that comes from communal traditions and taking one’s “place amongst generations.” Tracking the Fox gives us poems to read and reread, both for the beauty of their immersion in nature and for the way they help to dissolve “deep…ancestral pain.”
—Dr. Terry Bohnhorst Blackhawk, author One Less River,
Kresge Arts in Detroit Literary Fellow
Tracking the Fox showcases Petrouske’s skill with traversing poems of the domestic and natural worlds. These narrative and meditative poems remind us how home and place return to us, even after we’ve left. I admire Petrouske’s voice, for it holds tension, making the reader eager for every reverberating, often haunting, ending. Come, listen to the voices here: a father’s utterance; the all-night rain; a fox’s silent slash of red; jack and white pines falling, their limbs “like an intake of breath.” I tell you, with lines like “I can do nothing about loss,/ except learn from others who have also lost,” this is a poet you want to know.
—Janine Certo, author of O Body of Bliss
winner of the Longleaf Press Book Contest in Poetry (2022)
Rosalie Sanara Petrouske has given us a gift to savor in these lovely poems which cross over the threshold between living and actually being in the world. What she has done so deftly is to explore her connections to her Anishinaabe past, present and future, with a heartfelt look into Ceremonial time. These poems sing with the understanding of the natural world and the inner lives of things. There are direct links between wisdom, ancestry, and the lessons of simply walking the earth, knowing how to read the sky, or how to understand the talk of crows. Take them outside and sit with them and you will be all the better for it. These heal what needs healing.
—Michael Delp, Co-editor of Made in Michigan
Wayne State University Press
About the Author
Rosalie Sanara Petrouske is the author of What We Keep (Finishing Line Press, 2016), A Postcard from my Mother (Finishing Line Press, 2004), and The Geisha Box (March Street Press, 1996). Petrouske’s poems and essays have appeared in many literary journals: Passages North, Red Rock Review, Rhino, The MacGuffin, Southern Poetry Review, Third Wednesday, Sky Island Journal, Blueline, and Lunch Ticket, among others. Her poetry was also included in several anthologies, the most recent, 100 Years of Upper Peninsula Writing, 1917-2017 from MSU Press and Voice on the Water: Great Lakes Native America Now from Northern Michigan University Press.
Her poem “Eating Corn Soup Under the Strawberry Moon” was one of six finalists in the 2020 Jack Grapes Poetry Prize from Cultural Daily. In 2021, she was one of five finalists for the distinction of U.P. Poet Laureate (of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan). Images of the natural world are prominent throughout her work as she stays true to the teachings of her Ojibwe father, who taught her how to provide careful stewardship and to always honor her surrounding environment, whether a woodland or urban landscape.