Writing “Wolf Song”
I met wolf ecosystem biologist Cristina Eisenberg when we were both fellows at Black Earth Institute. Feeling that my poetry could help her to get the word out about the power of wolves, Cristina invited me to accompany her and her team into the field in Glacier National Park, where she was researching the effects of wolves on the health of the landscape.
Tramping the high fields of the Montana mountains with the team, following narrow wolf-trails past hidden dens, I felt for myself the contrast between the arid, empty, overgrazed landscapes where wolves were extinct, and the thriving landscape where wolves were protected. Thanks to the wolves, deer grazed in natural patterns, and healthy underbrush supported birds, fish, and insects. The wolf is our peer at the peak of the food chain, the keystone to healthy ecologies. Wolves are our sacred wild friends; to harm a wolf is uniquely taboo in Native cultures for good reason, since they are the creatures who keep everything else in balance.
Bringing what I had written back to Maine, I realized that this project would inspire more than an individual book of poetry. The epic tragedy of the wolf’s near-disappearance from the United States demands communal and societal, not just individual, grieving. I founded an organization, Poets Theater of Maine, to create the play, and the production became a collaborative effort among nearly 30 people: composers, musicians, choreographers, mask-makers, dancers, actors, and singers, all coming together to honor the spirit of the wolf.
I intended the play to loosen popular stereotypes and awaken the transformative power of the wolf within the ecosystem and ourselves. A workshop version of “Wolf Song,” featuring the wolves of our psyches from La Loba to the Wabanaki trickster to the wolf-mother who suckled Romulus and Remus, premiered to an enthusiastic audience at Mayo Street Arts in Portland, Maine under the direction of Assunta Kent with musical score by Christina Alden-Kenne. As the cast carried maskmaker Libby Marcus’ large red huge wolf mask out onto the stage, the audience added their voices to the casts’ to sing and howl along during the finale, and the spirit of the wolf moved through the theater.