An Eagle Nation

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The delight of AN EAGLE NATION book is Revard’s own delighted eye for colorful, evocative detail. Whether he is describing the landscape of the American West, a slippery walk along the rocky coast of the Isle of Skye, or the ceremonies of Osage Indians, Revard works by accumulating telling detail, piling up image upon image until the reader’s senses are dazzled. He is no miniaturist; his poems tend toward the middle length, with many of them spilling over three or four pages.

The three sections of the book first separate, but finally unite, Revard’s unique combination of experiences and sensibilities. The first, “An Eagle Nation,” focuses on Native American narrative, custom, and identity, and the practiced eye of the practical naturalist. “Homework at Oxford” briefly explores the England Revard experienced as a Rhodes scholar and exploits this distant perspective to reexamine America and the author’s complex selfhood. The scholarly frame of mind enriches this perspective but never freezes it in mere analysis. Several of the poems in this section are also set in the American West. “Sea Changes” is a more heterogeneous gathering in which a profound sense of human and geological history emerges. Here Revard stands poised at an intersection of time, culture, and materiality to reveal identity as process.

Avoiding both the stuffy and the merely quaint, Revard brings an intense vividness and alertness to his braided sense of being. On the occasions when he appropriates traditional English poetic forms, he does so without the sneer of learning or the coldness of exercise. He seems to enjoy everything, even prosody, and he convinces the reader that even a life as diversified as his own is whole. In a language that is precise, thing-filled, heavily rhythmical, and oddly colloquial, Revard makes poems (and several prose pieces) of celebration while rattling our stereotypes of the American Indian.