Erdrich draws upon an extensive oral tradition in her writing, and with "Windigo," she adapts an ancient storytelling style—which relies on spoken performance—for a modern literary context. In other words, for optimal effect, please limber up those vocal chords and, ahem, read the poem out loud. Okay—sorry for shouting. We were just warming up our voices, too.
Imagine hearing the poem read aloud around a campfire, with the moon full and the wind howling. Allow Erdrich's rich imagery to resonate. Like any great scary story, the sound of the language alone will chill you to the bone.
Just revisit that frantic final stanza in its breathless urgency, its run-on sentence structure, the poem's action pulling, dragging, running towards its climactic image, an image of a river shaking in the sun… you see what we mean? Additionally, in lines 21 to 22, Erdrich utilizes consonance, or the repetition of a consonant sound (in this case L), to create the sensation of forward motion, pushing the sentence onward towards its conclusion in line 24.
Just one go through out loud and you'll see—nope, you'll hear—how important sound is to this poem.