While continuing to explore themes taken up in other poems (such as the power of language), “North American Time” places these concerns in the context not of new discoveries but of continued struggle. As in A Wild Patience Has Taken Me This Far, Rich rejects the Romantic emphasis on certain peaks of perception and, instead, focuses on the daily struggle to change the world through quiet strength and resistance. In Your Native Land, Your Life, Rich continues to explore the ways that common experience, especially the natural and indigenous scenes of her “native land,” provides the raw material of art that becomes the artist’s life.
The phrase that gives the title to the collection occurs in a poem titled “Emily Carr,” about the Canadian artist who paints totem poles of the Northwest Coast Indians. It encapsulates the importance of art rooted both in landscape and in traditions, especially those of minorities. Rich continues to incorporate the past, on a personal level by analyzing the powerful relationship with her father and the role of her background, and on a general level by attending to the indigenous history of the United States and its connections to the rest of the world.
The collection echoes the tripartite structure of The Dream of a Common Language, with sections titled “Sources,” “North American Time,” and “Contradictions: Tracking Poems.” The poem “North American Time” is part...
(The entire section is 594 words.)