Linda Hogan Hogan, Linda - Essay


(Poetry Criticism)

Linda Hogan 1947-

(Born Linda Henderson) American poet, novelist, short story writer, essayist, critic, playwright, and editor.

Widely regarded as one of the most significant contemporary Native American women writers, Hogan is known for her skillful use of metaphors and her ability to transform words into vivid imagery. Her poetry focuses on twentieth-century Native American life, as well as issues concerning women, nature, the global environment, identity, family, and tribal history. In all of her work, Hogan attempts to reconcile traditional Native systems of knowledge with contemporary life and language.

Biographical Information

Hogan was born in Denver, Colorado, in 1947 to Charles Henderson, a Chickasaw Indian, and Cleona Bower Henderson, a descendant of Nebraska pioneers. Hogan spent her childhood living wherever her father's work took the family. Although she moved often, her father's Chickasaw ancestry and connection to Oklahoma provided her with a spiritual center and a home. While growing up, she continually struggled with her mixed-blood heritage and began writing in her early twenties as a way to reconcile the two parts of her identity. After her marriage to Paul Hogan (whom she later divorced) she moved to the East Coast, where she worked with physically challenged children. She continued to write poetry, and eventually moved back to Colorado, where she attended the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. In 1978, Hogan earned an M.A. in English and creative writing at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Hogan's first poetry collection, Calling Myself Home was published in 1978. In 1979 she adopted two daughters of Oglala Lakota heritage, Sandra Dawn Protector and Tanya Thunder Horse. Hogan has received several prestigious awards, including the D'Arcy McNickle Memorial Fellowship at the Newberry Library in 1980 and the Yaddo Artists Colony Residence Fellowship in 1982. She received a National Endowment for the Arts grant for fiction in 1986, a Guggenheim fellowship for fiction in 1990, and a Lannan Award in 1994. Hogan has taught at many colleges and universities over the years, and has been teaching at the American Indian Studies Program and the English department at the University of Colorado at Boulder since 1989. She has recently served on the National Endowment for the Arts poetry panel and gives lectures, readings, and workshops at both universities and Native American organizations. She has also worked as a volunteer in wildlife rehabilitation clinics in Minnesota and Colorado.

Major Works

Although she is half Chickasaw, Hogan was brought up in a mainly white society and her only experience with her Native American heritage came from visits to her father's family in Oklahoma. Her earlier writing reflects her search for identity and the reclaiming of her Native American roots. Her first poetry collection, Calling Myself Home (1978), documents both her search for identity and the importance of restoring inner unity. In “Leaving,” Hogan asserts her unified self: “Good-bye, divisions of people: … All my people are weeping / when I step out of my old skin.” Hogan's next two poetry collections, Daughters, I Love You (1981) and Eclipse (1983) are influenced by her love for her two daughters. She writes with fear about the fragility of her children's bodies and with hope for their future, and at the same time discusses the fragility of the earth and the need to preserve it for the sake of her children's future. In Seeing through the Sun (1985) she again explores her dual identity and relates to other women and their experiences. In Savings: Poems (1988), Hogan's poetry becomes more thematically diverse and her political vision deepens dramatically. In “The New Apartment: Minneapolis” she confronts racism and poverty and shows how people cope under the onus of these conditions. The Book of Medicines, published in 1993, takes on the theme of healing, both the healing of self and the healing of the pain between people. Her poems are hopeful, as if through her journey to find her identity she is able to see past the strife in the world to reconcile and work toward a peaceful future. Through her words, the healing begins to take place.

Critical Reception

Hogan is highly praised for her ability to capture vivid images of nature in her poetry. Although her earlier poems were met with mixed reviews, on the whole critics are charmed by her imagery and captivated by the realism of her portrayal of nature. Joseph Perisi states, “She vividly brings to life the realities of the natural world, its seasons, and their effects, observed with precision and understood with uncanny sympathy; time and again, she hits the exact metaphor that conveys the feeling of being truly alive. …” Commentators find that she has matured in her poetry, starting out with her own inner struggles and then later expanding to write about the problems that other people and peoples undergo. Her poems are deeply introspective and reflect a great love of her heritage. Reviewers have also found many parallels between her use of maternal metaphors and the Native American ideology of women as caretakers of the earth. Hogan is able to give readers two different perspectives, and critics applaud her for her insight.

Principal Works

(Poetry Criticism)

Calling Myself Home 1978

Daughters, I Love You 1981

Eclipse 1983

Seeing through the Sun 1985

Savings: Poems 1988

Red Clay: Poems and Stories (poetry and short stories) 1991

The Book of Medicines 1993

A Piece of Moon (play) 1980

That Horse [with Charles Colbert Henderson] (short stories) 1985

The Stories We Hold Secret: Tales of Women's Spiritual Development [co-edited with Carol Bruchac and Judith McDaniel] (short stories and essays) 1986

Mean Spirit (novel) 1990

Dwellings: A Spiritual History of the Living World (essays) 1995

Solar Storms (novel) 1995

Between Species: Women and Animals [co-edited with Brenda Peterson and Deena Metzger] (short stories and essays) 1997

Val Morehouse (review date 1980)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Calling Myself Home, in Booklist, Vol. 76, No. 12, February 15, 1980, p. 818.

[In the following review of Calling Myself Home, Morehouse compliments the blending of Native and non-Native imagery in Hogan's poetry.]

Rooted in native American oral traditions, Oklahoman Hogan's excellent first chapbook of poems [Calling Myself Home] melds WASP geopoetics with native symbolism for bicultural impact. Crow, tobacco, coyote, oil, turtle, walnut, and the sheen of gunstock wood offer multiple connotations from two mythologies. Additionally, Hogan's is a matriarchal blood vision seen in clay, paint, feather, skin, organs, afterbirth, a womanly unity: “Their bones … holding up the earth.” Woman sees the sacredness in simple acts and small events: “We are here, the red earth / passes like light into us / and stays.” The bent knee of a mosquito, the passing of a culture assume equality in such ancient spiritual vision. It is a continuity and revelation violent and lovely: “The sky crackles like a gun / and shadows of thin trees / fall down to the ground.” Hogan is Chickasaw and white.

Publisher's Weekly (review date 1985)

(Poetry Criticism)

Publisher's Weekly (review date 1985)

SOURCE: A review of Seeing through the Sun, in Publisher's Weekly, Vol. 227, April 19, 1985, p. 80.

[In the following review, the critic finds that, although at times touching and mystical, Hogan's poems generally lack distinction and vision.]

The poems [Seeing through the Sun] of this Chickasaw Indian have an aboriginal, autochthonous quality. They are songs of the earth in which the personification of nature has as much a mystical as a metaphoric sense. Although they appear to come out of the poet's own experience, they nonetheless have a tendency to become abstract. The scenes and landscapes that Hogan describes are generalized and often amorphous, lacking in character and distinction. What is intended to be haunting and celebratory comes off as merely monotonous. Certain sharply etched images and certain poems in which the speaker is clearly integrated into her poem stand out, but on the whole Hogan's poetry lacks authority and vision. She is a teacher in the American Indian Studies Program at the University of Minnesota and, as we learn from her touching sequence of poems on the subject of maternity, the mother of two daughters.

Rhoda Yerburgh (review date 1985)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Seeing through the Sun, in Library Journal, Vol. 110, No. 9, May 15, 1985, p. 68.

[In the following review, Yerburgh applauds Hogan's use of simple language and recurring images in Seeing through the Sun.]

Chickasaw Indian poet Hogan's voice has a tough delicacy [in Seeing through the Sun]. Stripped-down language fired by a vigorous imagination creates spare poems that only just manage to contain their emotional intensity. “Desert” and other poems in a series for her daughters are loving and unsentimental: “She teaches them to turn the soil / one grain at a time. / They plant so carefully / seeds grow from their hands.” Hypnotic rhythms rising from evenly stressed lines transform “hearts the size of fists” to “fists disguised as hearts.” Recurring images—light, sun, teeth, stars, hands, keys, mirrors, trees, the four elements—interweave the ordinary with the surreal in this fine collection by a gifted poet.

Joseph Perisi (review date 1985)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Seeing through the Sun, in Booklist, Vol. 82, No. 7, December 1, 1985, p. 525.

[In the following review, Perisi commends Hogan's ability to use both ordinary language and heightened imagery to create vivid poetry.]

With remarkable freshness and clarity, Linda Hogan seems, in these poems [Seeing through the Sun], not only to have compressed the experiences of her personal life span, but also to have distilled the heritage of her people, the Chickasaw Indians. In direct, colloquial speech heightened by unexpected but exact images drawn effortlessly, inevitably from nature, she relates the daily events of being a woman, mother, sister, and member of her tribe, through days and nights filled with care, disappointment, love, injustice, injury, and, yes, a genuine sense of joy. She vividly brings to life the realities of the natural world, its seasons, and their effects, observed with precision and understood with uncanny sympathy; time and again, she hits the exact metaphor that conveys the feeling of being truly alive, intensely aware of natural surroundings, and willing to exist fully within their wonders—if one is but wise enough to recognize their sustaining strength. Many of the poems offer vignettes of friends, relatives, neighbors, which form a compassionate composite portrait of the many faces of Woman—masterful short stories that speak volumes about the mysteries and resilience of her sex. This is strong stuff, crafted by both mind and heart.

Robert Berner (review date 1986)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Seeing through the Sun, in World Literature Today, Vol. 60, Summer, 1986, p. 506.

[In the following review, Berner praises not only the themes of Hogan's poetry in Seeing through the Sun,but also its structure—the movement from anguish to wisdom.]

One of the difficulties in studying the work of the younger generation of American Indian poets is that too much of it is available only in small-press editions and poetry quarterlies. For this reason, the University of Massachusetts Press is to be commended for publishing [Seeing through the Sun], a collection by one of the best of these writers.

Linda Hogan is a poet who happens to be Indian, which may not be the same thing as being an “Indian poet.” In other words, she seems to be concerned less with expressing recognizably Indian themes than with producing poems which bridge the gap between her particular humanity as a Chickasaw of mixed ancestry and the universal condition of which all of us are a part. One of the early poems, “The Truth Is,” suggests the divisions and tensions inherent in the consciousness of a mixed Indian-white heritage: “I'd like to say / I am a tree, grafted branches / bearing two kinds of fruit … / It's not that way.” Although she wants to believe that “this is nonsense / about who loved who / and who killed who,” the knowledge of white guilt remains to haunt her. This poem should be compared with the final lines of the last poem in the book, “Wall Songs”: “May all walls be … bridges of flesh, / all singing, / all covering the wounded land / showing again, again / that boundaries are all lies.”

The book is notable not only for the quality of the individual poems, but also for its structure. The movement from the anguish with which the book begins to the wisdom with which it ends seems clear. It is a journey through what one poem calls the “territory of night,” to an identification with her children and the natural world, and finally to a recognition of the universality of everything that makes us human. Seeing through the Sun is a remarkable performance in what clearly ought to be a distinguished poetic career.

Paula Gunn Allen (essay date 1986)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: “There is Wilderness in My Blood: Spiritual Foundations of the Poetry of Five American Indian Women,” in The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions, Beacon Press, 1986, pp. 168-72.

[In the following excerpt, Allen explores Hogan's views on spirituality and conservation as rooted in her Indian beliefs.]

Like Joy Harjo, Linda Hogan (Chickasaw) directly integrates a spirit-based vision in her work. She is conscious of its vibrant spherical power to unify divergent events and conflicting views. Like all the American Indian women writing poetry and fiction, Hogan is conscious of the real nature of spirit presence in the world and so...

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Linda Hogan with Joseph Bruchac (interview date 1987)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: “To Take Care of Life: An Interview with Linda Hogan,” in Survival This Way: Interviews with American Indian Poets, Sun Tracks and the University of Arizona Press, 1987, pp. 119-33.

[In the following interview, Hogan and Bruchac discuss influences on Hogan's writing and spirituality.]

Although she often speaks softly in conversation, Linda Hogan's voice is both eloquent and strong in poems and stories which draw much of their power from the landscapes of southern Oklahoma and Colorado, where she grew up. Her connections to family and her commitments to speaking of her people and for the earth are constant threads running through the four volumes of her...

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Linda Hogan with Bo Schöler (interview date 1988)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: “‘A Heart Made out of Crickets’: An Interview with Linda Hogan,” in Journal of Ethnic Studies, Vol. 16, No. 1, Spring, 1988, pp. 107-17.

[In the following interview, Hogan and Schöler discuss Hogan's technique and the meaning of her poetry.]

Born in 1947, Linda Hogan (Chickasaw) did not start to write creative literature until she was in her late twenties. But since the publication in 1980 of her first book, Calling Myself Home, she has been prolific. Four collections of poetry have appeared, and a fifth will be forthcoming in early 1988. In addition, one collection of short stories, That Horse, appeared in 1985, and a novel is in...

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Laura Kennelly (review date 1989)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: “Four Poets, Four Voices,” in Belles Lettres, Vol. 4, No. 2, Winter, 1989, p. 8.

[In the following excerpt, Kennelly shares her mixed feelings about Savings: Poems. While she finds that Hogan captures the images of wild animals superbly, she believes that Hogan's poems, at times, sound forced.]

Linda Hogan (Savings) is aware of what she is doing, but sometimes I just do not care. You might. She is a deeply meditative poet, and I suspect that Savings would endure well if one dipped into it over the years. Her images are firm; her poetic structures are competent. There is little in these poems to disgust and nothing slovenly; but many...

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H. Jaskoski (review date 1989)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Savings: Poems in Choice, Vol. 26, No. 8, April, 1989, p. 1328.

[In the following review, Jaskoski finds the poetry in Savings: Poems to be trite and undisciplined.]

In her first collection, Calling Myself Home (1978), Hogan's poetry showed great promise: taut, deeply felt images and acerbic insights. Unfortunately, later collections do not show that promise being fulfilled. Although her area of concern has expanded beyond self and family to global issues and insights of peace and social justice, her craft does not show commensurate flexibility or rigor of discipline; she relies entirely on first-person free-verse lyrics of one...

(The entire section is 150 words.)

Louis McKee (review date 1992)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Red Clay: Poems and Stories, in Library Journal, Vol. 117, No. 4, March 1, 1992, p. 91.

[In the following review, McKee highly recommends Red Clay: Poems and Stories, praising both its prose and poetry.]

“I'm dreaming the old turtle back.” So begins Hogan's journey. For Native Americans, the journey home is what tells them of their history, the mystery of their very lives, and leads them toward fullness and strength. According to Hogan, these poems and tales [in Red Clay] were part of her return, helping her identify with her tribe and the Oklahoma earth, the powers of ancestors and clay: “We are plodding creatures / like...

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Craig Womack (review date 1993)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Red Clay: Poems and Stories, in American Indian Quarterly, Vol. 17, No. 1, Winter, 1993, pp. 103-4.

[In the following excerpt, Womack examines Red Clay: Poems and Stories and describes the recurring images in Hogan's poetry, giving special attention to Hogan's use of the turtle.]

Linda Hogan uses primordial images in her poems in Calling Myself Home: red clay, insects, turtles, light, water, organs. These images, like the dancing light of fireflies on a humid summer eveiling, flicker and flit in and out of the poetry and stories, appearing throughout the book. Hogan is concerned with the home one physically inhabits and the home...

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Robert L. Berner (review date 1994)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of The Book of Medicines, in World Literature Today, Vol. 68, No. 2, Spring, 1994, pp. 407-08.

[In the following review, Berner commends Hogan's poetic talents in The Book of Medicines.]

Linda Hogan, who is of mixed Chickasaw and European ancestry, is one of a handful of the most important poets of American Indian background among the many writing today. In her previous collections she has demonstrated an ability to relate Indian realities to the universality of what makes us human, and though some of the poems in Savings (1988; see World Literature Today 63:4, p. 723) may have seemed somewhat political, they avoided...

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Linda Hogan with The Missouri Review (interview date 1994)

(Poetry Criticism)

Linda Hogan with The Missouri Review (interview date 1994)

SOURCE: An interview with Linda Hogan in The Missouri Review, Vol. 17, No. 2, 1994, pp. 109-34.

[In the following interview, Hogan discusses her childhood, her personal beliefs, and the inspiration for her works.]

Linda Hogan is a prize-winning Native American poet, short story writer and novelist living in Colorado. Her books include Seeing through the Sun, which received an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation; the highly acclaimed novel, Mean Spirit; and most recently The Book of Medicines. She has a forthcoming novel, Solar Storm, a...

(The entire section is 6942 words.)

Elaine A. Jahner (essay date 1994)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: “Knowing All the Way Down to Fire,” in Feminist Measures: Soundings in Poetry and Theory, edited by Lynn Keller and Cristanne Miller, University of Michigan Press, 1994, pp. 163-83.

[In the following essay, Jahner examines the works of Hogan and Joy Harjo in terms of their respective use of metaphor to express cultural ideas.]

Native American women's poetry often appeals to readers with a tenacity that does not, however, cancel the insecurity that many experience over how to think about features of it that derive from unfamiliar cultural histories. This is often the case even for other Native Americans because there are so many different and contrasting...

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Stacy Alaimo (essay date 1996)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: “Displacing Darwin and Descartes: The Bodily Transgressions of Fielding Burke, Octavia Butler, and Linda Hogan,” in Isle: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, Vol. 3, No. 1, Summer, 1996, pp. 55-64.

[In the following excerpt, Alaimo studies Hogan's handling of nature in her poems. Instead of humanizing nature and animals, the critic contends, Hogan gives them their own identity, an identity that doesn't always conform to common expectations of characterization.]

Linda Hogan, in an interview with Patricia Clark Smith, stated that after participating in a research project on wolves in northern Minnesota she realized that “wolves really...

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Further Reading

(Poetry Criticism)


Hogan, Linda. “A Different Yield.” Religion and Literature 26, No. 1 (Spring 1994): 71-80.

Hogan discusses her beliefs about the connection between the power of language and the power of nature.

Miller, Carol. “The Story is Brimming around: An Interview with Linda Hogan.” Studies in American Indian Literatures 2, No. 4 (Winter 1990): 1-9.

A discussion of Hogan's life, ideology, and her writing technique.

Smith, Patricia Clark. An interview with Linda Hogan. In This Is about Vision: Interviews with Southwestern Writers, edited by William Balassi, John F. Crawford, and...

(The entire section is 164 words.)