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1 0 2 W e s t e r n A m e r ic a n L it e r a t u r e S p r in g 2 0 0 5 (8-9). No doubt future students of contemporary Native American poetry will need to come up with a more critical analysis of the genre. However, a monolithic introductory statement is not necessarily essential for such a groundbreaking collection; its very existence is justification enough. The diversity of subjects discussed in the body of the text further proves the point, as most important themes of contemporary Native American poetry are addressed here: place, nature, origin stories, oral traditions, mixedblood issues, Native identity and language in the context of the larger American culture, and, of course, Paula Gunn Allen. Other Native American luminaries appearing here are Simon Ortiz, Marilou Awiakta, and Carter Revard. Speak to Me Words is a must for anyone with an interest in Native American literature or poetry and has an important place in the larger context of western literature as well. The Arbutus/Madrone Files: Reading the Pacific Northwest. By Laurie Ricou. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 2002. 240 pages plus a 16-page color insert, $21.95. Reviewed by John Cleman California State University, Los Angeles Despite the efforts of a number of “New Regionalist” critics who have emerged since the 1980s, writing about region and place remains a challenging critical endeavor. In part, this is because the shadow of something secondary and limited still haunts the terms regional and local, and the New Regionalist projects to recuperate them by shifting the focus to the more significant universals of contemporary theory—race, class, gender, and language—tend to dissolve the sense of region itself; the particulars of place become lost in postmodem space. To attempt an account of Pacific Northwest literature seems an even more daunting task, given the variety of geographic definitions within the region, the diversity of physical and social environments within these defini­ tions, and, hence, the dubiousness of finding anything like “regional identity” in the mist of possibilities. Laurie Ricou’s The Arbutus/Madrone Files: Reading the Pacific Northwest, then, is impressive first in what it undertakes, a theoretical excursion into very boggy ground with the author fully aware of the dangers. But, it is even more impressive in the way it negotiates the regional terrain, because in a funda­ mental way the challenges of reading and writing region become central to the regional “definition” he creates. The book is organized around a number of images or bioregional features that serve as tropes, but the most important figure running through all the others is the trope of border or boundary that, like the slash in the title, both divides and links. Recognizing the various ways in which the Pacific Northwest label has been applied, Ricou chooses no single or fixed concept. He prefers B o o k r e v ie w s 1 0 3 instead to represent the region as “a confusion of islands” that can only be known by “reading along the edges” or as a “delta, simultaneously— continuously —both eroding and being deposited, or in [novelist John] Keeble’s terms as a gathering ... ‘place of many languages’” (21, 19, 33). The arbitrary border between Canada and the United States at the 49^ parallel plays a central role in his initial meditations, signaling the conflict between human organizations of space in states, territories, nations, trade and transportation routes, and natu­ ral organizations in mountain ranges, watersheds, coastlines, and habitats. His aim, however, is not to obliterate the arbitrary border but to use it as a way into knowing or discovering a region called the Pacific Northwest. This is the impli­ cation of the title, which refers to Arbutus menziesii, a “native broad-leaved evergreen,” which “often serves as a regional symbol” because its native range roughly marks the limits of the Pacific Northwest, extending from northern California to lower British Columbia, and because it is “readily identifiable,” “useless,” and “messy,” a “strange tree, untree” that is called Arbutus in Canada and Madrone in the United States. “One species, one shared regional marker, with two names...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 102-104
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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