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Reviews 355 but Schultz intended telling of the theft of the medicine shirt by enemies of the Piegan, and the adventures of the war party organized to restore the shirt to its owner. Schultz created a vision, explaining the importance of the shirt to Bear Chief as an individual, and the Piegans as a people. Schultz, in his familiar role as Apikuni, is asked to accompany the war party against the Assiniboine “Cut Throats” (as characterized by the Piegans). This privilege was extended to him because of his special place among the Piegans and the assistance he was to offer in eliminating the obstacles the military or traders might offer to the war party. Betts relies on descriptions of other visions, warfare, and rituals to fill the remaining pages. It might have been useful to footnote all of the known accounts of the war shirt in the published literature of the Piegan/Blackfoot Confederacy. Unfortunately, the distinction between where this volume is “fictionalized,” as the outside promotional description claims, and where efforts are made to portray with ethnographic accuracy Piegan ritual/religious life, is not clear, and this raises further questions about Betts’s intentions. The second half of the book is mechanical and reveals many bare spots, especially in transitions. The quasi-ethnographic description of Piegan ritual life has all the appearances of filler. The volume is illustrated by the interesting drawings and paintings of Glen Eagle Speaker, a Blackfoot artist, who also served as a consultant to Mr. Betts. Unfortunately, this attractively printed paperback remains more an enigma than a real contribution to the literary tradition of James Willard Schultz. In many ways this novel is still as unfinished as it was when Schultz lifted his pen from it. DAVID REED MILLER The Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois The Dark is a Door. By Susan Strayer Deal. (Boise, Idaho: Ahsahta Press, 1984. 39pages, $3.00.) Susan Strayer Deal is passionately, intensely in love. Her poems in this, her second book published by Ahsahta Press, reflect both the anguish and the transcendent joy such a liaison can bring. Her love is for the natural world of the Great Plains, specifically (although she never names it) of central Nebraska. Deal brings to this relationship a realist’s acceptance of her lover’s strengths and weaknesses; nevertheless, in giving herself unreservedly to her love she finds herself terribly vulnerable. She knows what happens to mortals who fall in love with the gods of the Plains. When she is at peace, her work reflects the quietness at the center of her world. The reader responds to Deal’s incisive lines with sheer emotion. This is poetry in the elemental sense, but Deal is not a dilettante, writing emotively. As Don Welch points out in his fine introduction, “As simple as [her poems] appear, usually right out of her prairie landscape, they are not.” Behind her are years of discipline, of conscious intent, of formal training, of 356 Western American Literature fascination with language. The result is the ability to cut through any fuzzi­ ness or fogginess of imagery or concept. Her lines are as precise and sharp as glass shards. A major theme here, as the book’s title suggests, isDeal’s fascination with the dark of night or of shadow. In her title poem the door opens, not out, but into the physical world and to the psychical darkness as well: Wemove carefully into the dark ... the night things are with us, awake and watching Dark blood stirs. Weopen the door ofthe dark to enter a history, a memory. Close to a secret, we tremble with words. But the dark isa door we can onlyvoicelesslyenter, a place before the words. Thus the mythical, primeval Jungian dark is evoked, as well as the physical, western night sky, often pierced by sharp stars. Deal’s dark is often virtually palpable. It is not a dark to be feared, although the dangers and unknowables of the dark are recognized. Usually, in her poems nothing is to be feared, but much must be acknowledged: the weight, the heaviness, the im­ mensity of the land and sky, gravity itself, pulling and twisting the inhabitants. Those who found...


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pp. 355-356
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