The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“The Truth Is,” a poem in free verse, comprises forty-seven lines arranged in six stanzas of unequal length. It depicts the speaker’s conflicting emotions about her dual heritage. The speaker, in this case, is the poet’s alter ego and reflects her own background: Linda Hogan’s father is a Chickasaw Indian, and her mother is a European immigrant from Nebraska. Hogan uses the first person and, later, addresses herself by name, both of which clearly indicate that the poet is speaking of her own predicament.

The first stanza brings out the conflict. Normally, the two hands of an individual work in harmony to accomplish tasks. In this case, however, her hands, symbols of her ancestry, refuse to cooperate. The left hand represents the Chickasaw part of her heritage and the right that of her white lineage. Their separateness is so distinctive that the speaker needs to reassure herself that both hands, hidden away in each pocket, are indeed hers. She describes herself as a woman who “falls in love too easily” yet “sleeps in a twin bed”—in other words, she maintains her single status. The emptiness of her pockets indicates the absence of material possessions. The fact that she walks with her hands in her pockets further suggests her reluctance to advertise her ancestry. She informs readers that if she ever puts her hands in someone else’s pocket, it is “for love not money.”

The speaker continues her meditation on her peculiar state in the second stanza. She would like to envision herself as a grafted tree...

(The entire section is 634 words.)

Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Lacking a formal structure, the poem is deftly held together by metaphors, similes, symbols, and imagery. Hogan’s use of hands to denote her heritage is a rather unusual metaphor, suggesting the emphasis on actions rather than thoughts. That these hands are hidden away in the pockets is a reminder of the unseen but powerful forces of heritage. Furthermore, the emptiness of the pockets reflects the speaker’s state of existence: Her heritage has not, as yet, brought her any material or spiritual riches. Phrases describing the woman, who “falls in love too easily,” who “sleeps in a twin bed,” and who “walks along with hands/ in her own empty pockets/ even though she has put them in others/ for love not money,” evoke the image of a vulnerable woman in search of peace and love.

The metaphor of a grafted fruit tree in stanza 2 is a powerful one. Normally, the process of grafting produces new varieties. If the grafting is successful, it is difficult to distinguish between different branches. In this case, however, this is not so. The grafting of the two cultures has not worked well; the speaker’s dream that the tree would bear two fruits, each distinctive in itself, has not been realized. The phrase “It’s not that way” tersely reveals the truth. The image of branches that “knock against each other at night” contrasts the reality with the speaker’s erstwhile dream of peaceful coexistence. “Who loved who” and “who killed who”...

(The entire section is 430 words.)


(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

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Anderson, Eric Gary. “Native American Literature, Ecocriticism, and the South: The Inaccessible Worlds of Linda Hogan’s Power.” In South to a New Place: Region, Literature, Culture, edited by Suzanne W. Jones and Sharon Monteith. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2002.

Arnold, Ellen L. “Beginnings Are Everything: The Quest for Origins in Linda Hogan’s Solar Storms.” In Things of the Spirit: Women Writers Constructing Spirituality, edited by Kristina K. Groover. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 2004.

Balassi, William, John F. Crawford, and Annie O. Eysturoy, eds. This Is About Vision: Interviews with Southwestern Writers. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1990.

Bleck, Melani. “Linda Hogan’s Tribal Imperative: Collapsing Space Through ’Living’ Tribal Traditions and Nature.” Studies in American Indian Literatures: The Journal of the Association for the Study of American Indian Literatures 11 (Winter, 1999): 23-45.

Bonetti, Kay. “Linda Hogan.” In Conversations with American Novelists: The Best Interviews from the “Missouri Review” and the American Audio Prose Library, edited by Kay Bonetti, Greg Michalson, Speer Morgan, Jo Sapp, and Sam Stowers. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1997.

Coltelli, Laura. Winged Words: American Indian Writers Speak. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990.

Cook, Barbara J., ed. From the Center of Tradition: Critical Perspectives on Linda Hogan. Boulder: University of Colorado Press, 2003.

Hegarty, Emily. “Genocide and Extinction in Linda Hogan’s Ecopoetry.” In Ecopoetry: A Critical Introduction, edited by J. Scott Bryson. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2002.

Hogan, Linda. “’A Heart Made Out of Crickets’: An Interview with Linda Hogan.” Interview by Bo Schöler. Journal of Ethnic Studies 16 (Spring, 1988): 107-117.