Welcome to the Native American section of this issue of Prairie Schooner. My Indian writer friends teased me about creating a literary reservation.
Maybe, I said, but this rez is 100 percent cool Indian poets.
And two fiction writers.
I don't know what happened to Native American fiction. When I started my writing career in 1989, there were at least thirty Native fiction writers prolifically publishing with large commercial publishers, prestigious small presses, and esteemed university journals. I think of Linda Hogan, Susan Power, Elizabeth Cook-Lynn, N. Scott Momaday, Velma Wallis, and Greg Sarris.
There was an abundance of Indian stories.
But now those old-school writers aren't publishing much, if at all, and the new Indian fiction writers either can't find a foothold in mainstream publishing or they don't exist.
I'm beginning to think we'll soon see blurry photos of Native fiction writers running through the woods with an equally blurry Sasquatch.
What happened to Native fiction? I have no clue. And I get in trouble from other Native writers and scholars for asking the question.
Are Native fiction writers blogging instead? Have they, because of improving economic status for Indians, chosen other careers when, in previous generations, smart Indians were pushed toward art?
I have no answers.
But the poetry has never slowed down. Never stopped. In these pages, you'll find some new and amazing young poets (and two fiction writers) and a few old-school bards.
Adrian C. Louis is an old friend of mine and a primary influence on my work, so I knew I needed his poetry. The Indian world is tiny, the Native literary world even smaller, so I already knew Esther Belin, dg okpik, Sara Marie Ortiz, Stephen Graham Jones, and Santee Frazer, and solicited [End Page 7] work directly from them. And though I'd never met them, I'd previously read the work of every other writer in this section, so hunted down their email addresses, and sent the ask. What kind of stuff was I looking for? It was pretty simple. If I immediately wanted to read it again then I accepted it.
So what is the most surprising discovery about these writers? They have broadened their worldviews. Oh, they're still writing from the perspective of Indians but aren't explicitly writing about their Indian-ness. Instead of looking inward, as a colonized people must do, these Indian writers are looking outward, as a post-colonial Indian will do.
From the experimental riffs of Esther Belin and dg okpik to the gorgeous lyrics of Joan Kane and Erin Bad Hand, from the ragged realism of Santee Frazier to the gentle sadness of Tacey M. Atsitty, these writers are creating a new kind of Native poetry.
The first Native American Literary Renaissance was about finding pride in our voices. N. Scott Momaday's House Made of Dawn won the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and let us know that Indians could compete with the big boys and girls of American literature. In 1974, James Welch's Winter in the Blood, a stunning tale of off-reservation realism, received a front-page rave in The New York Times Book Review. Leslie Silko's war novel, Ceremony, published in 1977, was universally acclaimed and won her a McArthur Genius Grant. In 1981, Simon Ortiz's epic poem, From Sand Creek, was a powerful reminder that the genocide of Native Americans had not stopped. And Joy Harjo's She Had Some Horses, first published in 1983, remains the finest collection of poetry written by one of us Indians.
This New Native American Literary Renaissance is about the confident exploration of place, time, and soul. I'm very happy to have edited this collection of Native literature.
Now where the hell are all the Indian fiction writers? [End Page 8]
Sherman Alexie is the author of twenty-two books, including The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, winner of the 2007 National Book Award for Young People's Literature; War Dances, winner of the 2010 PEN Faulkner Award; and the poetry collection Face (Hanging Loose P). His forthcoming...