Local Current Blog

Sherman Alexie mourns Prince in noble new poem

Sherman Alexie (Lee Towndrow / Little, Brown and Company)

You may know Sherman Alexie wrote The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. You may know he’s the most renowned Native American author of our time (but he’s not your model minority). However, you may not be familiar with this trait of Alexie’s: an abiding love for Prince. He’s spoken about his favorite Prince songs before, but in a new poem called “Hymn,” he shares a story about his grief and exactly what he’d do if he could play the guitar.

Like Prince, Alexie has been singled out for his individuality; his commitment to vision; his refusal to play the game. “The strangest stranger,” he calls himself in “Hymn.” “‘He was weird’ will be carved into my tomb.” He’s not the only one with such a curious epitaph; many have said as much about Prince, a glorious individual who sanctified his own difference. Alexie said these next words, but Prince’s spirit shines through: “My primary power is for the weird brown kid who gets to know that they’re not alone.”

More generally, “not alone” resounds throughout “Hymn.” Alexie is no lonely writer scribbling to himself; this poem has an audience, and Alexie is talking directly to them. He addresses a section to the current president. He asks questions of implied readers. He won’t pretend that harmony is easy, crying out about civil divide and a broken friendship. But he states, “Alone, we are defenseless. Collected, we are sacred.”

That’s why it means so much when a legend honors another. When a celebrated author bows to a man who inspired him. “Collected, we are sacred.”

Sherman Alexie will appear on Talking Volumes with Kerri Miller on September 14 at the Fitzgerald Theater. At this time, extremely limited tickets remain.