Calling Myself Home Summary
by Linda Hogan

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Calling Myself Home Summary

(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

The collection Calling Myself Home includes ten poems in the first section, “By the Dry Pond,” dedicated to the author’s sister. The second part has sixteen poems under the heading “Heritage.” The first ten poems are reflective meditations that turn to an arid and materially impoverished landscape, yet the poems present memories full of wonder and reverent attention to details of landscape, as well as awareness of connectedness to a historic and prehistoric past. The frequent references to the ancient turtle inhabiting the now-dry pond, for instance, offer an image of patient endurance and survival and an allusion to the great tortoise that, in many Native American mythologies, supports the world on its back. The title poem, “calling myself home,” weaves themes together in its imaginative depiction of old women dancing to the rattles they create from turtle shells and pebbles. The speaker goes on to express an identity of connection among herself, her people, and the ancient ones: All are compared to the turtle, a natural emblem of patience and ancient wisdom as well as a crucial figure in many American Indian myths. Such affinity between people—especially women—and their land creates great strength. The generations of women forebears the author celebrates become part of the strength of the earth. Paradoxically, the speaker ends the poem on a note of farewell, stating that she has come to say goodbye, yet the substance of the poem indicates that the speaker, like the turtle, will carry her “home” with her always.

The second section of Calling Myself Home includes more poems meditating on the author’s personal and family experience and moves to larger themes of her heritage as a Chickasaw woman. The section’s title poem, “Heritage,” alludes specifically to events she has elsewhere described as happening to her great-grandparents and other relatives: a plague of grasshoppers that destroyed her great-grandfather’s farm in Nebraska, her uncle who carved delicate wood and bone objects and passed on traditional Chickasaw lore, her silent grandfather, and the counsel and practice of her grandmother. She alludes to secret wisdom, suppressed knowledge, and the sense of “never having a home.”

Other poems in Calling Myself Home celebrate metamorphosis and transformation, pervasive themes and modes of writing throughout the author’s work. The natural transformation in the birth of a colt is acknowledged in “Celebration: Birth of a Colt,” while “The River Calls Them” offers close observation of the metamorphosis of tadpoles into frogs. In “Man in the Moon” the speaker identifies with the mutating phases of the moon, now emaciated and nearly invisible, now fat with a house that will “fill up with silver.” In “Rain” metamorphosis becomes method as well as theme, as rainfall is portrayed as fish falling from the sky, while the actual fish, revivified by the rain, feed the exuberant children. In “Vapor Cave” the theme of metamorphosis extends beyond cultural past to identification with the earth itself. The vapor cave is a womblike hollow, both erotically steamy and innocently purifying; the speaker enters to be cleansed and restored and finds herself transmuting as her limbs seem to be dissolving their boundaries. The poem echoes the meditation in “Calling Myself Home” on women’s bones transmuted into the calcified, tortoise-like skeleton of the earth.

Bibliography

(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Suggested Readings

Ackerberg, Peggy Maddux. “Breaking Boundaries: Writing Past Gender, Genre, and Genocide in Linda Hogan.” Studies in American Indian Literatures 6, no. 3 (1994): 7-14.

Hogan, Linda. “A heart made out of crickets’: An Interview with Linda Hogan.” Interview by B. Scholer. The Journal of Ethnic Studies 16, no. 1 (1988): 107-117.

Hogan, Linda. “An Interview with Linda Hogan.” The Missouri Review 17, no. 2 (1994): 109-124.

Hogan, Linda. “Linda Hogan.” Interview by Patricia Clark Smith. In This Is About Vision: Interviews with Southwestern Writers, edited by William Balassi, John F. Crawford, and Annie O. Esturoy. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1990.