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Maurice Kenny

Celebrations of a Mohawk Writer

Joseph Bruchac, Penelope Myrtle Kelsey

Publication Year: 2011

Explores the work of Maurice Kenny, a pivotal figure in American Indian literature from the 1950s to the present. 'This collection explores the broad range of works by Mohawk writer Maurice Kenny (1929–), a pivotal figure in American Indian literature from the 1950s to the present. Born in Cape Vincent, New York and the author of dozens of books of poetry, fiction, and essays, Kenny portrays the unique experience of Native New York and tells its history with poetic figures who live and breathe in the present. Perhaps his best known work is Tekonwatonti/Molly Brant: Poems of War. Kenny’s works have received various accolades and awards. He was recognized by the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers with the Elder Achievement Award, and two of his collections of poems, Blackrobe and Between Two Rivers, were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Kenny has also been honored with the American Book Award for The Mama Poems. His works have been recognized by National Public Radio, and have drawn the attention of famous figures such as Allen Ginsberg, Jerome Rothenberg, and Carolyn Forché. Maurice Kenny: Celebrations of a Mohawk Writer serves as a comprehensive introduction to Kenny’s body of work for readers who may be unfamiliar with his writing. Written by prominent scholars in American Indian literature, the book is divided into two parts: the first is devoted to musings on Kenny’s influence, and the second to traditional critical essays using historical, nationalist, Two Spirit, creative, memoir, and tribal-theoretical approaches.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Maurice Kenny

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pp. vii-viii

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Foreword: “Maurice Kenny: Not Through Height”

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pp. ix-xii

There’s a Nigerian proverb that I first heard while teaching in West Africa: “It is not through height that one sees the moon.” But it was only when I first met my friend Maurice Kenny a few years after my return to the United States that I saw that wise saying embodied in the flesh. ...

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pp. xiii

Thanks to the many individuals who made the publication of this book possible. Thanks to Cheryl Savageau, Siobhan Senier, and Lisa Brooks for their encouragement to pursue this project in its earliest stages and for their sage advice regarding the endeavor as a whole. Thanks to the Haudenosaunee ...

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1. Reading the Wampum: An Introduction to the Works of Maurice Kenny

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pp. 1-6

In 1929 in Cape Vincent, a small burg near the industrial behemoth of Watertown, New York, Maurice Kenny was born to Anthony Andrew Kenny and Doris Marie Parker Herrick Kenny, a Mohawk/Irish father and Seneca/ English mother. His beginning was not particularly noteworthy, although ...

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2. You, Too, Will Have This Printed Word (World) of Your Own

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pp. 7-13

Maurice Kenny has the most inscrutable, yet elegant handwriting. It looks somewhat like glyph work, and fifteen years into our friendship, I often still have to guess on some words when reading a letter from him. My own handwriting, as my students will attest, is no easy read either, and I suspect ...

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3. The Breath and Skin of History

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pp. 15-23

is impossible to be a Kanien’keha writer, or Haudenosaunee for that matter, without having an awareness of the works of Maurice Kenny. Kenny, like the long line of great Haudenosaunee orators before him, is a tireless recorder of not only Iroquois history, but of sorrows, joys, and atrocities that ...

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4. Dancing Back Strong Our Nations: Performance as Continuance in Maurice Kenny’s Poetry

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pp. 25-36

Maurice Kenny is an elder to me as a Native, Queer, Two-Spirit, mixed-blood poet. I first read Kenny’s work in the 1988 collection Gay and Lesbian Poetry in Our Time edited by Joan Larkin and Carl Morse.1 In the early and mid-1990s I was living in a small university town in conservative Colorado, ...

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5. Maurice Kenny: How Can Any Self-Respecting Mohawk Live in a Place Like Brooklyn?

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pp. 37-45

Maurice Kenny was born in rural upstate New York, in that section between the Black and the St. Lawrence rivers called the North Country. He grew up near Watertown, New York, on Lake Ontario within sight of the Adirondack mountains. But his life’s journey has taken him many places—to the ...

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6. Tortured Skins, Bears, and Our Responsibilities to the Natural World

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pp. 47-66

After the first reading, Maurice Kenny’s collection of short fiction seemed to me to cohere primarily around his critique of colonially imposed assimilation programs and the resulting fragmentation of Indigenous identity. Hence the title, Tortured Skins and Other Short Fictions. However, subsequent studies ...

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7. Teaching Maurice Kenny's Fiction: Dislocated Characters, Narrators, and Readers

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pp. 67-73

The first piece of writing in Maurice Kenny’s short story collection, Tortured Skins and Other Fictions, features a shifting collage of dreams, visions, and prophecies concerning the 1868 Battle of Washita River. Chief Black Kettle, who was killed during the massacre, provides one perspective of the days ...

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8. The Spirit of Independence: Maurice Kenny’s Tekonwatonti / Molly Brant: Poems of War

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pp. 75-96

Looking back at this essay, written in 1994, it represents an audacity I no longer possess since I probably would no longer attempt publishing on Iroquois writing, a subject I know little about (with the exception of recent work on Pauline Johnson's prose style which I hope maintains a maximum ...

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9. Painting "Word-Pictures" in Place: Maurice Kenny’s Empathetic Imagination of Tekonwatonti / Molly Brant

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pp. 97-118

When I first set out to write a chapter that concerned Mohawk leader Joseph Brant, I was struck by a particular moment at Niagara, following the ravages of the Revolutionary War, when his sister Molly turned to a Mohican leader, traveling with his small entourage on a diplomatic mission, and essentially ...

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10. Two-Spirit Images in the Work of Maurice Kenny

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pp. 119-132

A poet, fiction writer, essayist, editor, and publisher, Mohawk author Maurice Kenny has done it all in his prolific career. He published his first fulllength collection, Dead Letters Sent, in 1958, the same year as the chapbook With Love to Lesbia and released his latest book, Connotations, in 2008 as ...

Appendix. MAURICE KENNY’S MOLLY BRANT: From Poetry to Play

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pp. 133-156


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pp. 157-162

List of Contributors

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pp. 163-165


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pp. 167-168

E-ISBN-13: 9781438438047
E-ISBN-10: 1438438044
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438438030
Print-ISBN-10: 1438438036

Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2011