Paula Gunn Allen (essay date 1978)
SOURCE: An introduction to Dancing Back Strong the Nation: Poems by Maurice Kenny, Blue Cloud Quarterly Press, 1979.
[A Laguna Pueblo novelist, poet, nonfiction writer, educator, and critic, Allen edited Studies in American Indian Literature: Critical Essays and Course Designs (1983). In the essay below, which was originally written in 1978, she comments on the overall themes of Dancing Back Strong the Nation, nothing that as a Native American poet, Kenny allows Native and non-Native readers to "discover what our common journey is about and to understand each step as within a totality."]
Poets are a unique breed of people, and Native American poets are, perhaps, even more so because of the nature of the modern Native American experience. Poets must say things that others might not allow themselves to think; they must transmute the ordinary into the extraordinary, and the extraordinary into the mundane. Poetry, that peculiar quirk of mind, requires that the hidden become clear while the evident sinks into obscurity. It is the poet's task to articulate the significance of human life by weaving discordant bits of life into meaningful patterns. The Native American poet, whose life is discordant at every level, faces the necessity of creating wholeness from a life that is biculturated—broken into pieces of the past and lumps of the fragmented present, and fuse them into coherence—make a meaningful rubric of beads and chrome, cities and wilderness, plants and machine, time immemorial and no-time-at-all. For the modern Native American...
(The entire section is 657 words.)