Other literary forms

Even before the publication of his first book of poetry in 1971, Simon Ortiz (ohr-TEEZ) had begun to write short fiction, publishing his first short stories in the 1960’s. “I’ve known ’story’—or stories—all my life,” Ortiz observed in the preface to Men on the Moon: Collected Short Stories (1999). He has also edited several volumes devoted to the writing of Native American authors, most notably Earth Power Coming: Short Fiction in Native American Literature (1983) and Speaking for the Generations: Native Writers on Writing (1998), and has contributed to many books concerned with the heritage and cultural history of indigenous people, including Toward a National Indian Literature (1981) and I Tell You Now: Autobiographical Essay by Native American Writers (1987). The People Shall Continue (1977) is designed for young readers, as is The Good Rainbow Road = Rawa ’Kashtyaa’tsi Hiyaani: A Native American Tale in Keres and English, Followed by a Translation into Spanish (2004), a trilingual children’s book.

Ortiz has made a number of recordings of his work and has appeared on radio programs and videos. Nothing but the Truth: An Anthology of Native American Literature (2001) contains an extensive contribution by Ortiz.

Achievements

Simon Ortiz, along with Leslie Marmon Silko, N. Scott Momaday, and Louise Erdrich, was one of the people most directly responsible for the elevation of Native American literature to a position of prominence in American literary life during the 1970’s. In his poems and short fiction, Ortiz draws on the vibrant styles and subjects of the oral tradition that has endured for millennia in Native American cultural communities and brings them into a contemporary context as a written record of a people’s experience. His poetry, in conjunction with the stories that deal with a complementary range of psychic conditions, social considerations, and geophysical phenomena, moves from an individual’s encounters with life in the United States to the ways in which that person’s life is presented as a reflection and representation of the cultural patterns and values of a clan or extended family within an ethnographic matrix.

Ortiz has remained closely connected to the increasingly complex and varied world of Native American writing since the initial publication of his own work, teaching at numerous institutions and editing and collecting the work of his peers. His efforts have been recognized with many awards, including a National Endowment for the Arts Discovery Award (1969), a Pushcart Prize (1981), a White House Salute to an Honored Poet (1981), the New Mexico Humanities Council Humanitarian Award (1989), a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writer’s Circle of the Americas (1993), the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award (1996), the Wordcraft Circle Writer of the Year Award (1998), and a New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts (2000). In 2002, he received an honorary doctor of letters degree from the University of New Mexico.

Simon J. Ortiz

Author Profile

Ortiz spent his early years at Deetseyamah on Acoma Pueblo land. He is a member of the Eagle (Dyaamih hanoh) clan. He attended McCartys Day School in McCartys, New Mexico, St. Catherine’s Indian School in Sante Fe, New Mexico, and Grants High School in Grants, New Mexico.

Following high school, he worked in uranium mines for Kerr-McGee, served in the U.S. Army, and was graduated from both the University of New Mexico (BA) and the University of Iowa (MFA). He has taught at Sinte Gleska College in South Dakota and at the University of New Mexico. Ortiz is the author of the books of poems Going for the Rain (1976), A Good Journey (1977), and Fight Back: For the Sake of the People, for the Sake of the Land (1980). He is also the author of a collection of short stories, Fightin’: New and Collected Stories (1983), and edited a collection of native fiction, Earth Power Coming (1983). Ortiz’ work reflects his Acoma Pueblo heritage; it has also been influenced by the social movements of the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Bibliography

Capulti, Jane. “The Heart of Knowledge: Nuclear Themes in Native American Thought and Literature.” American Indian Culture and Research Journal 16, no. 4 (1992): 1-27.

Coltelli, Laura, ed. Winged Words: American Indian Writers Speak. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990. Includes an informative interview with Ortiz.

Litz, A. Walton. “Simon J. Ortiz.” In The American Writers, supp. 4, part 2. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1996. A retrospective by an experienced critic that emphasizes Ortiz’s early life as a key to his work.

Rader, Dean. “Luci Tapahonso and Simon Ortiz: Allegory, Symbol, Language, Poetry.” Southwest Review 82, no. 2 (Spring, 1997): 75-92. Useful comparisons of the similarities in technique of two Native American writers.

Smith, Patricia Clark. “Coyote Ortiz: Canis Iatrans Iatrans in the Poetry of Simon Ortiz.” In Studies in American Indian Literature, edited by Paula Gunn Allen. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1983. A study of the importance of the mythic figure Coyote as legend, symbol, and poetic voice.

Wiget, Andrew. Simon Ortiz. Boise, Idaho: Boise State University Press, 1986. A study by a recognized American Indian scholar.

Wiget, Andrew, ed. Handbook of Native American Literature. New York: Garland, 1966. Contains a concise overview of Ortiz’s life and early works.

Bibliography

Allen, Chadwick. “Simon Ortiz: Writing Home.” In The Cambridge Companion to Native American Literature, edited by Joy Porter and Kenneth M. Roemer. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005. Looks at Ortiz’s writings with emphasis on his writing about his physical and spiritual home.

Brill de Ramírez, Susan Berry. “Walking with the Land: Simon J. Ortiz, Robert J. Conley, and Velma Wallis.” South Dakota Review 38, no. 1 (Spring, 2000): 59-82. Shows ways that Ortiz intertwines oral and written literary traditions to develop stories promoting faith and courage.

Brill de Ramírez, Susan Berry, and Evelina Zuni Lucero, eds. Simon J. Ortiz: A Poetic Legacy of Indigenous Continuance. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2009. Essays examine the writings of Ortiz, noting his emphasis on the culture in which he was raised.

Fitz, Brewster E. “Undermining Narrative Stereotypes in Simon Ortiz’s ’The Killing of a State Cop.’” MELUS 28, no. 2 (Summer, 2003): 105-121. Explores Ortiz’s complex and suggestive use of narrative.

Litz, A. Walton. “Simon J. Ortiz.” In The American Writers. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1996. A retrospective by an experienced critic that emphasizes Ortiz’s early life as a key to his work.

Rader, Dean. “Luci Tapahonso and Simon Ortiz: Allegory, Symbol, Language, Poetry.” Southwest Review 82, no. 2 (Spring, 1997): 75-92. Useful comparisons of the similarities in technique between two Native American writers.

Schein, Marie-Madeline. “Simon J. Ortiz.” In Updating the Literary West, edited by Thomas J. Lyon. Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1997. Discusses themes in his work, especially survival humor.

Smith, Patricia Clark. “Coyote Ortiz: Canis Iatrans Iatrans in the Poetry of Simon Ortiz.” In Studies in American Indian Literature, edited by Paula Gunn Allen. 5th ed. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1995. A study of the importance of the mythic figure Coyote as legend, symbol, and poetic voice.

Wiget, Andrew. Simon Ortiz. Boise, Idaho: Boise State University Press, 1986. A study by a recognized American Indian scholar.

_______, ed. Handbook of Native American Literature. New York: Garland, 1996. Contains a concise overview of Ortiz’s life and early works.