Poet’s work published in Cherokee language
Poet Ed Roberts is featured in a new, multilingual anthology with a piece published in English and the Cherokee language. COURTESY
The latest “Amaravati Poetic Prism” is an anthology that features poetry in 125 languages. COURTESY
YUKON – A poet from the Oklahoma City metropolitan area is among a list of peers published in an international, multilingual anthology, but his is the only verse printed in the Cherokee language.
Ed Roberts, a 61-year-old Cherokee Nation citizen, is one of 761 writers from 86 countries spotlighted in the latest “Amaravati Poetic Prism” anthology that features 125 languages. His contribution to the India-published anthology is “a way to both help preserve the Cherokee language” and share it across the globe, he said.
“It’s in Cherokee and in English both so people can kind of understand what it means,” he said. “The Cherokee language has never been published in India ever. Not only that, but it’s being shown to people in more than 80 countries around the world. If you’re trying to keep your language from disappearing, take it and put it across the whole planet.”
Roberts, who is working on his 10th poetry book, has previously been included in the anthology. This time, he looked to CN language translators for assistance.
“Five people got together and translated my poem into Cherokee,” he said, adding that he officially received his CN citizenship in 2018. “My grandmother was Cherokee, and I wanted to give something to honor her, to give something to the people.”
Through his free-verse poetry, Roberts tackles cultural, political and social issues such as alcoholism, hunger and poverty. “From the Pill to the Bottle to You,” his seventh poetry collection, targets those struggling with drug or alcohol addiction.
“I’ve gotten letters from people who’ve said that book saved their life,” Roberts said. “I’ve heard from several hundred people who have quit drinking, and several dozen people who decided not to kill themselves.”
Roberts first shared his poetry 20 years ago, more than a decade after an accident that left him wheelchair-bound sparked suicidal thoughts.
“I was told I’d never walk again,” he said. “I was a restaurant manager and had three-and-a-half gallons of 350-degree grease go down both of my legs from my knees down. I had muscle damage. My ankles were actually burnt down to the bone.”
Roberts said that despite the doctors’ predictions and his depression, he was walking again within a few short months.
“About 12 or 13 years later, I sat down and wrote a poem called ‘Five Single Words’ – who will find your body,” he said. “The day I wrote it, I emailed it to one of my best friends for editing. An hour later she emailed me back and said, ‘How did you know?’ I had no idea she was sick, but she had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure. She had bought a gun that morning and was going to shoot herself that night until she opened an email with a poem in it. One hour after I wrote the poem, it saved its first life.”
Since that time, Roberts has given readings and speeches about poetry in schools, universities and at poetry festivals. In 2005, he represented the United States with nine other writers at the Odyssey International literary festival held in Amman, Jordan.
“I met people from around the world,” he said. “The festival was eight days, and I spent the next week as a guest of the king of Jordan as a diplomat for our country. It was amazing. People ask how a guy from Yukon, Oklahoma, gets his poetry scattered all over the world, and I go, ‘It’s just something that’s more or less happened on its own.’ It kind of baffles me sometimes.”
Roberts describes his poetry as “a gift, but not for me.”
“This is why I want to try to give to the Cherokee people,” he said.
For information, visit edrobertspoetry.com