Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Ending in the Middle of a Sentence

The Remembered Earth is one of the first collections of American Native writings, and was published in 1979. The anthology has a wide selection of readings: poetry, critical and personal essays, short stories, drawings, and photographs. The book is organized geographically, but without continually referring back to the table of contents the reader has no real way to gauge where he or she is at. Chapter one of a novel in progress by Opal Lee Popkes is presented (177). Essays are left to hang. N. Scott Momaday’s “The Man Made of Words” ends without concluding, and in mid-sentence: “I believe that there are implications which point directly to the” (172).
Most anthologies I have read have a clear construction, or an overall purpose—a theme. I have to give credit to Geary Hobson. His curricula vitae is pretty impressive, but The Remembered Earth seems to have been slapdashed together. The anthology is a disjointed collection. This idea of disjointedness though, seems to be a theme I’m coming across in many of my readings for this class. I did not like Winter in Blood right away, for instance, because of its nonlinear narrative. The Woman Who Owned the Shadows also contains a nonlinear narrative, sometimes bouncing all the way back to creation. I believe suggesting that the nonlinear narratives found in American Indian writings are somehow directly related to the moment of postcolonialism can only partly explain the feeling of disjointedness in the writing. It seems to me the American Native has a more holistic and circular idea in regards to the concept of time.[1]
            Paula Gunn Allen’s poem “Hoop Dancer” showcases this idea of circular time. She writes, “It’s hard to enter/circling clockwise and counter/clockwise moving no regard for time, metrics” (218). Here, the circle has no end and no beginning, and it does not matter whether one moves clockwise or counterclockwise. The circle or hoop is a complete whole, and she ends the poem, “…turning lines beyond the march of years/ out of time, out of,/ time, out/ of time.” The concept of time seems fluid in these lines, no beginning and no end.
The Native American cultural conception of cyclical time directly comes into conflict with the Western linear concept, the simple turning of a calendar page or the monotony of watching a clock tick away the seconds. The moments in the past, for the Native, seem to be just as existent as the moments in the present.
A typical literature anthology is organized historically. The Norton Anthology of American Literature, for example, begins  with the Iroquois Creation Story, moves forward in history to letters written by Christopher Columbus, and continues moving forward historically until after World War II. The Remembered Earth is organized, however, spatially, and although Hobson deals specifically with the time frame of 1968-1970, Hobson writes how American Indian literature is “immeasurable” (2) and “has to do with remembering, continuance, renewal.” I wonder how much my own personal disconnect with the literature is connected with my own personal, Western ideas of time.
The Remembered Earth is a long book. Over four hundred pages, and thus able to showcase a wide breadth of Native American literature. It was, however, published in 1979, and so a bit outdated. A new anthology came out last year: Great Short Stories by Contemporary Native American Writers edited by Bob Blaisdell, but the anthology is only 144 pages long, is arranged chronologically, and Blaisdell’s introduction describes the stories included in the anthology as “stereotypical.” Blaisdel lists eleven anthologies published mainly in the 1980s and ’90’s in the introduction. One is from as recent as 2008. The majority of these anthologies are edited by Native Americans, and I think I will read those.

[1] Dr. Means lectured on this in Native American Ethnohistory. I thought the concept of cyclical time was interesting, but at the moment had not considered trying to connect the idea to literary forms.

No comments:

Post a Comment