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"Trenching" by Alice Azure


"Trenching" by Alice Azure


Alice Azure was born July 30, 1940 in North Adams, Massachusetts. Her father, Joseph Alfred Hatfield, was born in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, but grew up in northern Maine and New Hampshire. He was of French, Dutch, and Mi'kmaq descent. Azure's mother, Catherine Pedersen, was born in West Springfield, Massachusetts, but spent her formative years in Mandal, Norway from about 1924 to 1934. She was of Norwegian descent. At the age of seven, family strife sent Azure and her siblings to live in the Cromwell Children’s Home in Connecticut. Azure lived there from 1951 to 1959. She attended the University of Iowa, earning an M.A. degree in urban and regional planning.


Azure was long unclear about her familial roots, and did not know to which tribe she belonged. After searching for 35 years, she wrote a memoir, Along Came a Spider, about her life and the struggles she went through to discover her ancestry. The title of this memoir comes from Azure’s discovery of her spiritual guide, Grandmother Spider. Azure speaks with Grandmother Spider throughout her memoir, who provides inspiration and tranquility.

After years of research, a visit to Canada, and alliances with Metis groups in Nova Scotia, Azure was finally able to discover many of her old ancestors, dating as far back as the 17th century. She can officially say that she is of Mi’kmaq Metis descent, and her roots are in the Kespu'kwitk District of Nova Scotia. Azure has also been granted recognition of aboriginal status as an Acadian descendant in Nova Scotia by the Association des Acadiens Metis-Sourquois (salt water people), who are located in Saulnierville, Digby County, Nova Scotia.

Personal Life

Azure has been married twice. She met her first husband, Tom Liljegren, at North Park College, where Azure attended as an undergrad. Though they did not have a lot in common, they were still able to fall in love, and were married in 1960. They had three children, Kathryn, Michael, and Patti. After twenty years of marriage, their busy schedules caused too much stress and indifference, which led to their divorce. Azure met her second husband, Alec Azure, many years before they married. They had been merely friends, visiting each other every so often. Over time, their relationship grew more serious, and they married in July of 1990. Unfortunately, Alec passed away after only two and a half years of marriage. Through her grief, Alice devoted more of her time to writing.

Work and Writing

Before she began writing, Azure worked in the United Way movement, starting as a volunteer in 1975, then as a professional in 1979. Except for a four-year period from mid-1990 to 1994, she remained a community planner in various local United Ways until her retirement in January 2005. She currently lives in Maryville, Illinois near her three grandchildren, where she is a member of the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers and the St. Louis Poetry Center. 

Azure now focuses strongly on her poetry and writing. She now has her own website where she keeps up with her blog. Aside from Along Came a Spider, she has published two other books, In Mik’maq Country: selected poems and stories, and Games of Transformation, (which won the 2012 Poetry award from the Worldcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers).

Azure’s poetry consistently delves into her past, and typically voices her wonders about the mysteries of her ancestry. This allows for the reader to engage with Azure, and understand the hardships and confusions that she has gone through. Yet in all of her poetry, there is never a strong sense of anger or resentment. It's always a reflection that is told through delicate descriptions, which makes her poetry very enjoyable to read.

Literary Analysis

One of Azure's strongest poems is Trenching (featured below). This poem is stunning on so many different levels. It is so hard hitting with it's unexpected ending that is incorporated perfectly. For Azure to drop the reader off like that she forces them to feel very much how she felt when she was left at an orphanage – to go from enjoying an ordinary, beautiful life, to taking a dramatic turn for a reason that is very hard to grasp.

Azure’s best attribute in her writing is her attention to detail. In Trenching specifically, her descriptions of the small, delicate flowers are so vivid, which draws the reader’s attention, pulling them into a comfortable space that then gets yanked away. Azure’s attention to these small details is very similar to the description of her hands in Along Came a Spider, “I couldn’t help but notice how aged my hands and skin looked. All my life, it seems, I’ve had grandmotherly looking hands—brown, vieny, big and boney. An artist would have quite a time drawing my hands, catching the play of light on the branched, protruding veins, the prominent bones. The skin of my lower arms is so textured and leathery-looking, too, a busy network of lines all connected to pores—like the geodesic domes designed by R. Buckminister Fuller.” (83)

Lastly, Azure’s emphasis on the flower’s future colors is very interesting, since she pays great attention to the “bright, bright whites.” Why are the whites brighter than the other colors? Perhaps this is an inclination to white Americans who repress Native Indians and feel as though they should grow up like a white person. Many Indian children were taken from their homes and placed into orphanages and boarding schools in order to be raised as a white child, in the hopes that this would eradicate the Native Indian population. This arouses the question; did Azure feel as if she was one of these children in the Cromwell Home? She has not directly addressed this, but she does not look at her time in the Children’s Home as a negative experience, and she is very proud of her native ancestry.


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Zoominfo. "Alice. M. Azure". Web references. Retrieved 5 April 2013.


Azure, Alice




Jessica Goudreault, UNH '14




Still Image, Document


jpeg, pdf




North Adams, Massachusetts



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