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Native american poetry

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Native american poetry

  1. 1. Native American Poetry
  2. 2. What defines Native American identity? Joy Harjo b. 1951 Louise Erdrich b. 1954 Sherman Alexie b. 1966 Cherokee, French, Irish-American Chippewa, French, German-American Coeur d’Alene, Spokane
  3. 3. A person is judged as Native American because of how he or she views the world, his or her views about land, home, family, culture, etc. There are, I think, no easy answers. I do believe, however, that John Ross, the one-eighth blood Cherokee chief (with seven-eighths Scottish blood), who fought arduously against the removal of his people into Indian Territory, was more “Indian” than John Ridge, the seven-eighths Cherokee, who collaborated with Andrew Jackson’s henchmen, selling out his people. - Geary Hobson, The Remembered Earth (1991)
  4. 4. What defines Native American literature?
  5. 5. Contexts for Native American literature • Oral tradition: storytelling, myth, ceremony, ritual
  6. 6. Contexts for Native American literature • Oral tradition: storytelling, myth, ceremony, ritual • Native American writers: Samson Occom, Charles Eastman, William Apess, Zitkala Sa, Black Elk
  7. 7. [In 1987], I enrolled in a poetry workshop that changed my life. On the first day, the teacher, Alex Kuo, gave me an anthology of contemporary Native poetry called Songs from this Earth on Turtle’s Back. There were poems by Adrian C. Louis, a Paiute Indian, and one in particular called “Elegy for the Forgotten Oldsmobile.” If I hadn’t found this poem, I don’t think I ever would have found my way as a writer. I would have been a high school English teacher who coached basketball. My life would have taken a completely different path. This was the first line of the poem: Oh, Uncle Adrian, I’m in the reservation of my mind. . . . that line made me want to drop everything and be a poet. It was that earth-shaking. I was a reservation Indian. I had no options. Being a writer wasn’t anywhere near the menu. So, it wasn’t a lightning bolt—it was an atomic bomb. I read it and thought, “This is what I want to do.” When I wrote before, I was always wearing a mask—I always adopted a pose. I was always putting on a white guy mask. The line captured that sense of being tribal, being from a reservation—and the fact that you could never leave. . . . At the same time, I’d never seen myself in a work of literature. I loved books, always, but I didn’t know Indians wrote books or poems. . . . But as soon as I saw that poem, I knew I could write about myself—my emotional state, the narrative of my emotional life. When I wrote before, I was always wearing a mask—I always adopted a pose. I was always putting on a white guy mask. And all of a sudden, I could actually use my real face. (Sherman Alexie, The Atlantic, Oct. 16, 2013)
  8. 8. Contexts for Native American literature • Oral tradition: storytelling, myth, ceremony, ritual • Native American writers: Samson Occom, Charles Eastman, William Apess, Zitkala Sa, Black Elk • Western literary tradition / English and American poetry
  9. 9. Indian as “Other” Noble Savage Ignoble Savage The Brave The Bloodthirsty Savage The Indian Princess The Squaw The Drunk Indian
  10. 10. John Wayne

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