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b o o k R e v ie w s instead of the one in my hand. I would not, however, consider this a fault of the book; I do think, though, that it will make the work perplexing for some readers who expect the personal details of a memoirist’s life to be readily revealed. Regardless, Blew’s latest work offers all readers a whole set of compelling questions about life writing to ponder. Speak to Me Words: Essays on Contemporary American Indian Poetry. Edited by Dean Rader and Janice Gould. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2003. 294 pages, $50.00/$24.95. Reviewed by Angie Kritenbrink Pierce College, Puyallup, Washington Speak to Me Words, the University of Arizona Press’s recent collection of Native American literary criticism, should hold a prominent place on the shelf of any student or teacher of western literature. Including both reprinted and original essays, it is the first critical collection to focus solely on Native American poetry. While the thesis of the collection seems to be little more than a simple declaration that such work is important and, therefore, the edi­ tors have compiled it, the reality of the need for such criticism is enough to require the addition of this book to the modicum of academic resources avail­ able to students of Native American poetry. The collection’s introduction typifies the nonacademic writing style that so often characterizes Native American criticism. This style is at turns refresh­ ing and frustrating. Its admirable openness, enthusiasm for the subject, and lack of pretension are counterbalanced by occasional overgeneralizations and at least one somewhat irresponsible simplification of non-Native poetry when editor Janice Gould rashly declares, in trying to prove the distinctiveness of contemporary Native American poetry, that “one might argue that little dif­ ference exists between a John Ashbery poem of the seventies and a Wallace Stevens poem of the thirties” (7). It would have been more helpful to explain the differences between Native poets of the two decades than to take potshots at non-Native writers, especially considering that some readers, including Gould’s coeditor, argue that contemporary Native poets have more in common with non-Native poets than they have differences. The introduction itself is written as a dialogue between the two editors, ostensibly to “reflect the climate of interaction and exchange” characteristic of the process of putting the collection together (3). It is an interesting and unusual approach but in some ways suggests to the reader that instead of being the inspired result of collaboration, the unique methodology comes from the editors’ possible inability to agree, as when Gould expounds on contemporary Native poets’ rejection of traditional “Western” poetic structures, and then Rader “cor­ rects” her, reminding the reader that most contemporary poets, Native and nonNative alike, write in both free verse and still dabble in more traditional forms 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...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 101-102
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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