- Varieties of Hope: An Anthology of Oregon Prose ed. by Gordon B. Dodds, and: From Here We Speak: An Anthology of Oregon Poetry ed. by Primus St. John, Ingrid Wendt (review)
- Western American Literature
- University of Nebraska Press
- Volume 29, Number 4, Winter 1995
- pp. 382-383
- View Citation
- Additional Information
382 WesternAmerican Literature Varieties of Hope: An Anthology of Oregon Prose. Edited by Gordon B. Dodds. (Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 1993. 352 pages, $32.95/$18.95.) From Here We Speak: An Anthology ofOregon Poetry. Edited by Primus St.John and Ingrid Wendt. (Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 1993. 352 pages, $32.95/$18.95.) These books send the reader eagerly to “Suggested Further Readings”: that’s a good sign. The middle volumes ofthe Oregon Literature Series, like the earlier two, include a varied selection by familiar and unfamiliar authors and will be welcomed by both student and general reader. In spite of minor flaws (no on-page identification of visual art, a few typos), their strengths (diversity, readability, a rich historical context) make them a valuable contribution to western literature. In Varieties of Hope Gordon Dodds has drawn from many prose forms: personal essays, essays of social and literary history, book introductions, speeches, and journalistic pieces. Topics run a similarly broad gamut: from loyalty oaths to smelt, from fiddling to internment camps. Dodds provides an interesting invitation to Oregon social history by focussing on the questions: “What did men and women hope for in Oregon?”and “What happened to these hopes once they put down roots in their new homeland?” The volume isframed bytwo essays: a thorough narrative by H. L. Davis and a less substantial concluding piece by Terence O’Donnell, both seeking to define the Oregon experience. Davis comments on a characteristic pattern which Simon Ortiz (in the poetry volume) calls “arriving and leaving”: “It was Oregon, all right: the place where stories begin that end somewhere else. It has no history of its own, only endings of histories from other places; it has no complete lives, only beginnings. There are worse things.” The Oregon Litera ture Series seems both to celebrate and to counterbalance this coming and going. Dodds has chosen seven thematic units. Some of these, like “Liberty and Justice for All: Oregon’s Heritage of Conflict and Diversity,” are powerfully organized; others, such as “All Creatures Great and Small,” are insubstantial. The primary disappointment ofthe volume isthe brevity ofsome selections, e.g. the puzzling excerpt from Eva Emery Dye’s McLaughlin and Old Oregon, or the selection by Beatrice M. Cannady, a remarkable civil rights leader. But this brevity does make the reader want more! The poetry volume should rightfully have been two; this six volume series (Short Fiction, Autobiography, Prose, Poetry, Folk Literature, Letters and Dia ries) is clearly weighted toward prose. From Here We Speak is presented in two sections; Ingrid Wendt’s historical portion (birthdates to 1930) works chrono logically, while Primus St.John presents contemporary poets alphabetically. Wendt is remarkably thorough in her author notes, providing biography, history, interpretation and sometimes even childhood photos. She has included Reviews 383 a variety of poetic forms (e.g. Native American oral works translated into verse form, tanka and haiku, early free verse) and has searched for both typical and atypical elements in poets of earlier generations. Wendt does not strive to be a transparent editor; she reads these works through the filter of her own critical and social agenda, as in her consistent efforts to link the works ofearlier women poets to current feminist concerns. Primus St. John, in the contemporary section of the volume, explicitly sought to include “invisible” voices. Though he expresses dissatisfaction with the diversity he was able to structure, many lively voices appear, representing divergent views of poetry as well as varying race, gender, ethnicity and class. He also openly faces the question ofwho qualifies as an Oregonian: “Their private allegiance is enough to sanctify them as Oregon writers. . . .” Some recurrent themes surface: Cecelia Hagen and Michael S. Harper write of their children; Harold L.Johnson and Miles Wilson write ofwar experiences. And there are the unique poems like Marilyn Krysl’s reflections on feet and Kaz Sussman’s cel ebration of birth and music. The variety will keep any audience reading. This is, after all, an anthology, and readers experience that terrible disap pointment of loving a poem and not finding more by a particular author. But then, there are those suggestions for further reading, those...