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Reviews 387 There are fourteen essays in the volume, ten by men and four by women. Although there is great diversity in these essays, each of them follows, roughly, a similar pattern. Each of the authors has something to say about modern poetry in general and about his or her own poetic background. Each essay is followed by one or more recent poems by the author, many of them very good. Mr. Gonzales, in his introductory essay, recalls his first serious contact with modern poetry in a university classroom and ties this in with his early life on the deserts of West Texas and New Mexico. Another contributor, Susan Tichy, found her poetic subject during a stay in the Philippines; and still another, Bruce Barton, grew up in North Dakota and populated most of his early poems with loons. Nearly all of the authors show how their poetic subjects relate to experiences of their early years. Although these poets now live, or have recently lived, in Colorado, there is little in their poems or their essays that would label them as western or regional poets. Their concerns range across the world. Many of the poems and a number of the essays are concerned with politi­ cal, social and moral issues and in this respect are unlike a good deal of the writing of the recent past. One contributor, Rita Kiefer, dismisses the new critical movement of several years ago and contends that “poetry is by nature political.” Several of the others would appear to agree substantially with this view. Throughout these essays there is far more attention given to the content of poetry than to its form. And the content of the illustrative poems is mostly personal and often polemical. Three of the poets, with Hispanic origins, are understandably concerned with ethnic issues, and all of the women represented are aware of what one of them calls “femaleness” in recent poetry by their sex. While the quality of the writing in this book varies a good deal, all of it is interesting and much of it original. It is somewhat surprising that such a book as this could come out of a state that has produced relatively little serious literature. Colorado poetry has come a long way from the simple rhymes prais­ ing mountains and blue skies which made up most of the state’s “poetry” fifty years ago. ROBERT D. HARPER Estes Park, Colorado A Quilt of Words: Women’s Diaries, Letters & Original Accounts of Life in the Southwest, 1860— 1960. By Sharon Niederman. (Boulder: Johnson Books, 1988. 220 pages, $15.95.) In recent years the simplistic historical image of “the” western woman has exploded like a ripe dandelion as researchers have uncovered the myriad voices of real pioneers. Sharon Niederman’s collection of fifteen narratives adds to this growing body of women’s life histories. 388 Western American Literature The key to this book’s design, like that of its quilt namesake, is diversity. For example, there are the reminiscences of a Jewish settler in nineteenthcentury Santa Fe, a Yavapai woman’s account of life in an Indian School, a story of Mormon plural marriage, and a Hispanic woman’s memories of family life in Albuquerque two generations ago. The narrative forms are just as varied: oral history, letters, traditional autobiography, a diary, and memoirs. Since the book covers much of the nineteenth-century Southwest, it is dis­ appointing that only two of the chapters are about non-Anglos, while Isabella Greenway’s story of a privileged girlhood in Minnesota and Kentucky is included. Nonetheless, such a wide-ranging book will surely have a story and storyteller to appeal to every reader. As with any collection, especially one featuring accounts by some women who never intended their stories to be public, the chapters are uneven. But Neiderman’s apologia in the Introduction for the “charming and crude” narratives is unnecessary for those seeking out authentic western voices. Just as the editor argues that women’s stories will differ from men’s tales of exploration and conquest, women’s style of telling is part of their history and needs no apology. In fact, it is the less polished accounts...


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pp. 387-388
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