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reviews 97 Readers interested in the remarkable flourishing of contemporary Native American fiction will be largely disappointed in Murray's discussion of the works of N. Scott Momaday, Leslie Marmon Silko, and James Welch. These writers are treated in a chapter entitled "Autobiography and Authorship: Identity and Unity," which describes the multi-voiced, hybrid nature of those Indian autobiographies that in fact are collaborative efforts of an Indian subject, white editor or anthropologist, and often another Indian serving as translator. The most well-known is John Neihart's Black Elk Speaks. Murray makes no clear connection between the problematics of these texts and the writings of Momaday, Silko, and Welch. His emphasis on the importance of the role of the imagination in Momaday's definition of self, and his contrast of the "pessimistic" attitude toward modern Indian identity in Welch's The Death ofJim Loney with the "optimistic" view in Silko's Ceremony, do not contribute much to our understanding of these writers. Murray does contribute to the growing awareness among both specialized and general audiences of the wide variety of texts by and about Native Americans that raise questions of power and language in cultural and ideological contexts. The most vital way to follow these developments is to read the growing body of excellent poetry and fiction by contemporary Indian writers . DAVID SHEEHAN Under Flag by Myung Mi Kim. Berkeley: Kelsey St. Press, 1991 . pp 46. $9.00 (paper). Set in U.S.-occupied Korea and later the United States, Myung Mi Kim's poems are often marked by powerful understatement and haunted by irrecoverable loss and grief. Rather than rely solely on graphic detail, she uses the subtle and unexpected image to convey the landscape of war and penetrate the reader's conscience: "Faces spread in a field / On the breeze what might be azaleas in full bloom / Composed of many lengths of bone" ( 1 9). Her poems are a telling, though the act of telling is itself subject to doubt, emphasizing further the themes of transience and a shaken sense of certainty. Her collection begins with the lines, "Must it ring so true / So we must sing it," leaving unclear whether it is a question being asked or an answer given. Such ambiguity is continued in this poem and throughout the collection by her several uses of "it," sometimes making clear references—to the sea, to the voice—and sometimes left open, as in the above lines. Like this first poem, then, her collection frustrates the distinction between question and answer and denies a sense of certain closure. Experience is presented as an "underside"—that which is not directly visible or accessible—mediated here through language and memory, can only be questionably recorded. Her treatment of geography, both natural and man-made, also contributes thematically as impermanence is emphasized: "What gives way losing gulch, mesa, peak, state, nation / Land, ocean dissolving" (31). Borders shift, and nothing—physical or mental —is beyond change or question. For one, the issue of voice (articulation) is problematized. Voice here is not simply asserted as a source of personal empowerment, but rather is questioned; while not insignificant, its effect is uncertain. In the first poem, she writes, Voice 98 reviews It catches its underside and drags it back What sound do we make, 'n,' 'h,' 'g' Speak and it is sound in time Prattle done trattle gone just how far Do voices carry (13,15) Voice brings up the question how far?; its effect cannot be taken for granted. Further, by placing speech in time, Kim points to the transience of voice, particularly interesting when placed in the context of history and documentation (as is implied in later poems). Such doubt is taken a step further in "Demarcation": No trace on earth of what is said No way to put a palm up against it The tremble, the trouble, of woods, of words Elements. Elemental. So speak. Air water rise fall No way to speak it (37) "[W)hat is said" is intangible and can never quite "speak" that which it names—"Air water rise fall." Thus the limitations of voice as tied to spoken language are implied in Kim's telling...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2157-4189
Print ISSN
0026-5667
Pages
pp. 97-101
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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