Diane Glancy Essay - Critical Essays


In Claiming Breath (1992), Diane Glancy prefaces her compilation by stating, “I often write about being in the middle ground between two cultures, not fully a part of either. I write with a split voice, often experimenting with language until the parts equal some sort of whole.” The voice of Glancy’s poetry has been sculpted by her experience living in the different cultures of her Cherokee and English-German heritage. Considering this element of her voice, it is no surprise that Glancy cites Mikhail Bakhtin, author of Problemy poetiki Dostoevskogo (1963; Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics, 1973, 1984) as being a major influence on her work. Bakhtin’s use of “multiple borders” and “multiple narrators,” which are important elements in Native American storytelling, has shaped Glancy’s ability to weave together different cultures in both narrative and descriptive senses. Through her poetry, Glancy is able to manipulate these aspects of borderlands to create a sense of fragmentation that mirrors the disintegration of Native American culture, often achieved through her use of abrupt, shifting language structures.

In her poetry, Glancy confronts an array of sometimes disconcerting subject matter, such as divorce, middle age, death, and the effects of the modern world on Native American culture. In her interview with Andrews, she says that to understand Native American literature, readers need to “listen and let [the authors] talk and tell you. That’s what all of Native literature is in the process of doing.” Glancy says that of the Native American authors she knows, each, through his or her writings, explicates a personal stance on being Native American. Listening to these voices has ultimately influenced Glancy’s ability to wed her Native American spiritual traditions with Christianity, another borderland in which Glancy lives. She often credits the Bible, with its many viewpoints and narrators, as being advantageous to her construction of borderlands through language.

The concept of memory plays a pivotal role in the composition of Glancy’s poetry. Glancy has stated that people carry a “racial,” “generational” memory and that she has confronted this aspect of memory when writing about her Cherokee lineage. Using memory, she is able to fracture and engineer the language of her poetry. After locating her own Native American voice and coping with disrespect, Glancy was able to find humor and irony through writing; these are two important constituents of Native American storytelling and writing.

Asylum in the Grasslands

Asylum in the Grasslands (first printed in 1998, with a revised edition in 2007) elucidates the history of the Cherokee largely through the destruction of its culture through the loss of family structures and its native language. Glancy develops the theme of memory in an imagistic sense by fashioning a feeling of eradication perceived by her ancestors but brought into the contemporary world.

“Boarding School for Indian Women” illuminates Glancy’s propensity...

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