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90 Western American Literature What we are witnessing in the world today is an unparalleled waterfall destruction of a diversity of human cultuies; plant species; animal species; of the richness of the biosphere and the millions of years of organic evolution that have gone into it. In a sense ethnopoetics is like some field of zoology which is studying disappearing species. We must have a concern with this because our subject matter is rapidly disappearing and we, (and 1 mean “we” to mean everyone, regardless of his color or ethnic back­ ground, who is now plugged into the fossil fuel industrial society, we are all that “we”), we are the ones who are in some inexorable, karmic, historical way keeping it going down. In the “old ways,” which are of course deeper in us than recently habituated patterns, we operate in partnership with that “richness of the biosphere.” Poetry which comes from living the old way, living that is with specific and local knowledge of plants, animals, streams, soils, and weather, rather than a generalized “appreciation,” such poetry makes a bridge from overcivilization into the primitive. But for Snyder, . . ‘primi­ tive’ is not a word that means past, but primary, and future.” Whitman’s function for poetry is extended: “These poesies to come will help us learn to be people of knowledge in this universe in community with the other people — non-human included — brothers and sisters.” Like Robert Bly in his great essay, “I Came Out of the Mother Naked,” Snyder is digging down below surface rationalism, and venturing into the prehistory that comes before the history that is written by the civilized patriarchate. However, in The Old Ways he relies not on teasing, private leaps of imagination but on external corroboration from ecology and anthro­ pology. This gets the point out into the public domain. Then it is Snyder’s virtue to join the scientific material (for example, the “Gaia hypothesis,” recently put forth, “that the whole of the biosphere is one living organism”) with its inner correlative, the actual experience of the world as whole. This is a science that is warm and that sings like a coyote — “out there,” but somehow close in too. THOMAS J. LYON, Utah State University The Wishing Bone Cycle. By Howard A. Norman. (New York: Stone Hill Publishing Co., 1977. xi, 180 pages, $9.95 cloth, $3.95 paper.) The Wishing Bone Cycle is a collection of tribal poetry, the stories and songs told by the Swampy Cree. Howard A. Norman has gathered a trickster cycle, a series of name origins, a grouping of short poems and birth songs, and a longer trickster narrative. Like the best of the new ethnopoetics, the work of Dennis Tedlock, Jerome Rothenberg, and Alcheringa, Norman’s Reviews 91 translations come from a mastery of two disciplines — anthropology and modem verse. The book, first of all, is an important ethnographic document of tribal poetry. Norman’s field work among the Swampy Cree of the Canadian sub-arctic forest and lake region appears to be thorough and sure. Norman says he told each name origin back to the teller many times to make certain he had it right. This careful attention has paid off in Norman’s translations. His poems are more than examples of the various genres of Cree poetry translated to English for use in the study of myth and folklore. They also translate the act of story telling. To read the poems is to hear not just the collective heritage of the Cree but also the voice of the individual achimoo — the traditional story teller and name giver. The key to Norman’s reenactments is his understanding that tribal stories told aloud are poetry not prose. Following Rothenberg and Tedlock, Norman borrows the poetic line as the unit of attention from the modernists to suggest the story teller’s breath line and pace of delivery. The speaker’s pauses, lost to earlier prose translations, are clearly marked — silences that focus the stories and give the poems an immediate spoken quality. Typog­ raphy is used for volume control, loud or soft. But perhaps most important, Norman avoids the strained rhetoric and self-conscious naivete that...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 90-92
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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