- The Salt Companion to Carter Revard
In The Salt Companion to Carter Revard, Ellen L. Arnold has collected a series of insightful essays that engage readers in a wide breadth of topics that inform the study of this prolific Osage poet. In addition to examining Revard's work through subjects such as history, translation, and science, the essays in this collection thoroughly explore the poet's familial, cultural, and academic backgrounds, situating readers who are new to Revard into a place where they can examine the biographical connections between [End Page 101] the writer and his poetry and offering new insights into the same works for readers who are already familiar with Revard's work.
Arnold begins the essay collection with an informative and well-written introduction about Carter Revard. Revard was born in 1931 in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, and is of Osage, Ponca, Irish, and Scotch Irish heritage. After a childhood of working as a janitor and a field hand while gaining his primary education in a one-room school-house, Revard won a radio quiz scholarship to attend the University of Tulsa. After graduating with a BA in 1952, Revard became one of the first American Indian Rhodes Scholars, which led to an MA from Oxford followed by a PhD from Yale and a teaching career that spanned almost four decades, during which he taught courses in medieval English literature and linguistics. Political events of the 1970s such as the Trail of Broken Treaties and the Wounded Knee occupation of 1973 inspired him to return to his roots and teach courses in American Indian literature and culture.
All the while Revard developed his craft, publishing essay collections and poetry chapbooks such as Family Matters, Tribal Affairs; Ponca War Dancers; and Cowboys and Indians, Christmas Shopping. Revard explores topics such as one's place in the natural world, mixed-blood identity, and the literal and figurative returns to an Indian home.
The thirteen essays in this collection examine Revard's work from a variety of disciplines and perspectives, but they also appear to be divided into three larger thematic categories, each encompassing three or more of the essays. The first four essays offer analyses of Revard's work within the scope of the poet's personal experience, establishing Revard's biography as the framework through which to explore the poems. The topics within this category include Revard's connection to Osage/Ponca traditions, including a "star legacy," an extension of the Osage creation story that describes the people's descent from the heavens. Topics in this section also include Revard's engaging of Western representations of the Native individual and how notions of home inform a substantial portion of his body of work. This thematic section concludes with an essay that examines the presence of singing birds in Revard's poetry and [End Page 102] Revard's relationship to the "music instinct" that is shared between birds and poets.
The second subsection of the collection deals with the communal Osage experience and focuses on the presence in Revard's work of Osage myth, the history of Osage/Ponca survival and the Third Space experience and identity that exists within the contact zones between Natives and Euroamericans. Finally, the last three essays examine Revard's work from a cross-cultural framework. One essay details a scholar's struggle and ultimate joy in translating Revard's and the Osage community's experiences into Spanish for South American students of North American Indigenous literatures. The final two essays explore Revard's place as a Native scholar of medieval literature and demonstrate how Revard succeeds in establishing a relationship between what would appear to be two disparate passions.
One of the collection's many strengths is the quality of the writing itself. Each essay is well written, clear, and informative. The variety of topics with which the authors approach Revard's work also keeps the collection moving along and makes it a stimulating read, which would make the collection accessible to an undergraduate audience. The academic prose...