- Introduction:"A Spring Wind Rising . . . Listen. You Can Hear It"
This special issue of Studies in American Indian Literatures is devoted to the work of Simon J. Ortiz. It is a gift and an honor to serve as this issue's guest editor. For me, since first hearing Native American literature over twenty years ago at a reading in Gallup and first studying native literatures in classes taught by Luci Tapahonso at the University of New Mexico, Simon Ortiz's work has been a constant focal point in my experience with and understandings of Native American and, more broadly, American and global literary traditions. I see Simon's work within a global literary tradition of writers who offer us their words and lives as a lens or light by which we can better perceive and understand what it means to be human during times when far too many have forgotten: writers such as Sophocles, Solomon in his Song, Shakespeare, Dickinson, Paul Laurence Dunbar, William Carlos Williams, Wittgenstein, Lorine Niedecker, Edmund Jabés, Leslie Marmon Silko, Buchi Emecheta, and Simon J. Ortiz. As Ortiz reminds us over and over again, what we need to know is actually very simple and, thereby, profound in that simplicity: "He thought about stone, water, fire, and air. / And he had to believe it was possible—some men / didn't know or had forgotten."1
Three common elements pervade the work of each of these writers: a commitment to this world and the betterment of people's lives, a sense of the sonorous harmony and power of orality and storytelling, and a conscious respect of and engagement with the sacred in its various manifestations. Each of these writers brings the wisdom and history of their respective ancestral traditions interwoven with [End Page 3] the joy and beauty of creation. Whether it is Lorine working scrubbing floors while producing remarkable poetry in the traditions of Dickinson and Williams; or Sophocles creating Oedipus at Colonnus as an eighty-year-old man; Paul Laurence Dunbar and Buchi Emecheta, on opposite sides of the Atlantic, crossing lines of race and gender to cry their people's hopes and suffering; or Solomon, Wittgenstein, and Jabés articulating their diverse Judaic traditions with humor and pain; in the work of each of these souls, there is a magic here that their readers can touch, that has oral texture, that in its deepest sense is ennobling in its reminder of our humanity in this world of ours. This is what Ortiz's writing does, too. In his recent poetry collection Out There Somewhere, there is an Acoma poem whose English language title is "This Is the Way Still We Shall Go On" in which Ortiz tells us: "It is necessary to look back to the past. / Gazing we will see how our peoples in the past lived, / . . . / We who are living today, that is what we are to be guided by";2 and a few pages later in "It Is No Longer the Same as It Was in the Olden Days": "We must continue to be. / It is necessary. / With courage [. . .] / That is the way still we must keep on going."3
This issue of SAIL begins with new work by Ortiz, an excerpt from a larger manuscript. It is important to begin with Simon's own words and with his offering that speaks of the desecration and destruction of "Three round kivas. Walls of stone. / . . . the uncovered homesite. / Kaamah-tsaishruuh. A sacred place"4—a destruction that paved the way for the very interstate highway that so many of us traveled on our ways to Albuquerque and the University of New Mexico. An earlier yet previously unpublished interview with Ortiz by University of New Mexico Professor David Dunaway is next. Although this interview is from 1988, it is especially helpful in juxtaposition with the essays and tribute pieces that follow. I decided to begin and end this collection with two elders in the field of native literary study: Roger Dunsmore and Carter Revard. The first three essays by Dunsmore, Sarah Ann Wider, and David L. Moore were first presented, along with a reading by Simon...