Dec 11, 2014 - Poetry Book Press Release: Courtesans of Flounder Hill by Ishmael Hope

December 7, 2014

Ishmael Reed Publishing Company

P.0. Box 3288
Berkeley, California 94703

December 5, 2014 Ishmael Reed Publishing Company announces the publication of Courtesans of Flounder Hill, the first collection of poetry by Alaska Native poet, playwright and storyteller Ishmael Hope.

A book release party will occur on Sunday, December 14, 4pm, at Kindred Post in Juneau, Alaska, with readings from Courtesans of Flounder Hill by Ishmael Hope and readings from distinguished guests Christy Namee Eriksen and Nora Dauenhauer. The event is free and open to the public.

A descendent of our first storytellers, Ishmael Hope’s poetry reaches back to thousands of years and jumps forth into the twenty-­first century.” – Publisher Ishmael Reed.

Ishmael Hope, born in Sitka, Alaska, and living in Juneau, is a storyteller and writer who shares stories from his Iñupiaq and Tlingit heritages. The son of two Alaskan poets, the late Elizabeth Freda Hope from the Goodwin family in Kotzebue, and the late Andy Hope III from Sitka, a Tlingit of the S’iknaxh.ádi clan, Ishmael’s Iñupiaq name is Angaluuk and his Tlingit name is Khaagwáask’, and he is of the Kiks.ádi clan, the X’aaká Hít, the Point House, of Sitka. Describing Courtesans of Flounder Hill, the late poet and scholar of Tlingit oral literature, Richard Dauenhauer, said Ishmael Hope “explores and reminds us how each of us is central in a multigenerational relationship involving ancestry, self, and descendants; heritage, contemporary culture, and legacy; an unbroken chain of storytellers, daily life, and dreams, always negotiating, in the words of T. S. Eliot, between tradition and the individual talent. He writes in one poem, that ‘myths are a place to rest / from so much catching up to ourselves, / a place to rest in all this confusion.’”


Ishmael Hope has traveled throughout the United States as a storyteller for over a dozen years. He is an actor of Perseverance Theatre in Douglas, Alaska, starting in 2001 with Moby Dick. Ishmael worked for Perseverance Theatre from 2003 -­ 2008 as the Director of Outreach. He developed and curated the annual festival Beyond Heritage: A Celebration of Contemporary and Traditional Alaska Native Culture, which ran from 2001-­2008. He co-wrote, with former Perseverance Theatre Artistic Director PJ Paparelli, Raven Odyssey, an exploration of Raven stories in Alaska, which held its world premiere in January 2007. He wrote and performed in The Reincarnation of Stories, co-­produced by Generator Theater and Perseverance Theatre, in the spring of 2011. He performed the character of Bud in Universal Studios’ Big Miracle. In November, 2011, Ishmael completed a month-­long Traditional Artist residency at Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis, Indiana. Ishmael wrote a comic book, Strongman, interweaving a traditional Tlingit story with a contemporary young man’s life. He was a writer for Upper One Games’s new video game, Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna), released in the fall of 2014. He currently is transcribing Tlingit stories with the Sealaska Heritage Institute and assisting in preparing the upcoming publication of Tlingit Raven stories collected by Nora and the late Richard Dauenhauer. Courtesans of Flounder Hill is the first collection of his poetry to be published.

With the publication of Courtesans of Flounder Hill, Ishmael Reed Publishing Company celebrates their forty-­first year of publishing books by distinguished writers. Their publications include fiction and poetry works by writing luminaries Amiri Baraka, Victor Hernandez Cruz, the late William Demby, Joy Harjo, Quincy Troupe, Shawn Wong, Kathryn Takara, Boadiba, Neli Moody, Karla Brundage, Yuri Kageyama, Genny Lim and the late Lorenzo Thomas.

Publication Date: Dec. 14, 2014 Paperback: $20.00 ISBN: 978-0-918408-02-0 Number of pages: 69

For book orders, review copies, readings and book signings contact:
Tennessee Reed:, 510-­428-­0116, or Ishmael Hope:


There were grinning faces,
sitting in stiff chairs, cajoling
me to get up in front of the
auditorium. There was the master
of ceremonies who skipped over
my turn to speak. There were the
loudspeakers in the other room.
There were people my age adopting
me as kin, making jokes, choosing
mates like cards, spreading clothes
on the floor. There were the speakers
drifting a grave voice down the hall,
the voice of a white haired man,
the gravelly voice of a man
who’s been hurt, who has listened
to the embers of many lives.
I walked down the hall and the
man turned his head in my direction.
The heart is a silt jar, he said.
Dig your hands in it, spill it
in the ocean, let out the buried
ghosts, give it air, give it blood.
This is the way strangers come in,
this is the way to step outside
your home, this is the way things
become known, as the silt tips
out of the jar, as the bottom works
its way to the open air.


As Raven was dragging
the box of salmon home,
as he pulled with his octopus tentacle cane,
he could hear the salmon drumming,
each singing their song.
Now a sockeye is singing his song.
He is singing his song
as he walks to the forest.
The ravens are yelping for their brother.
They are flying over his feeble body,
his body gone to rest.
They are cawing with their brothers and sisters,
they are sharing their grief.
We recognize the immensity of the loss,
the loss of a man with too much knowledge,
and too little passed on
to shiny blue ravens, unable to hear
much more than their own squawking.

Can our loved ones
speak to us
when they’ve left their bodies?
Can our ancestors crawl into our dreams?
Is there a place, somewhere in the invisible land
where we can keep each other up all night,
laughing to Raven stories,
dipping into the grease bowl,
leaving the imprints of our imaginations
on the shadows of the redcedar walls?
In my grief, I will listen
to the rain, to the whistle of grass,
to the wind, to the drone of mosquitoes,
to the hymns of the ground,
listening for the songs
of my old friends.

Last Real Indians