Simon Ortiz

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What are the major themes in Simon Ortiz's poetry?

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Simon Ortiz is a Native American writer whose poetry speaks to the struggles of being a Native American. His poems include themes of respect for nature and the treatment of Native Americans in America.

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Majors themes in Simon Ortiz's poetry include respect for nature and problems that Native Americans face in America.

Ortiz has a lot of respect for nature and is often in awe of it. For example, when he talks about his beloved daughter in "Forming Child," he shares his love of the Earth with her and hopes that she'll feel the same love and respect for it. Often his poems use language that describes the Earth as beautiful and precious. In "Culture and the Universe," Ortiz describes men standing outside in a canyon and communing with nature, the sky, and each other.

"Busted Boy" is an example of a poem that talks about the Native American experience. Ortiz discusses how a boy is handcuffed to a pole while he and another Indian watch. It's clear that the boy did nothing. Ortiz and the other man don't interfere. They say that people are always waiting for men of color and that they are busted boys with busted lives. "Making Quiltwork" is another poem that addresses this issue. Ortiz talks about how Native Americans have been broken up and forced apart but are still working to be together as a community.

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The themes which exist in the poetry of Simon Ortiz are somewhat polar in nature. At some points, his poetry shows the hope and optimism one needs to succeed in life. On the other hand, some of his words are laden with grief and loss.

For example, in his poem "Blind Curse," Ortiz seems to recognize that some things in life simply cannot be defined (or found to possess any optimism):

You just might be significant
but you might not be anything.

On the other hand, poems like "Culture and the Universe," Ortiz shows readers that hope does exist when we (as mankind) understand that there are things greater than us which can be our saving grace:

It’s not humankind after all
nor is it culture
that limits us.
It is the vastness
we do not enter.
It is the stars
we do not let own us.
One can see in this poem that nature plays a very important role in the life of Ortiz (given his Native American heritage). Therefore, another theme typical of Ortiz's poetry is the power of nature.

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