Some of the clearest and strongest voices in contemporary American poetry belong to writers speaking from traditions long buried or submerged by an emphasis on the European origins of American culture to the exclusion of other dynamic and vital strains. As William Oandasan (a member of the Ukommno’m tribe of Northern California) has put it, “the voice of an ancient age/dreaming of breath” has recently found expression in the work of many Native American writers. Among these, Simon Ortiz has been highly regarded since the 1960’s for his efforts to preserve, examine, and restore the cultural values of the people living in the four corners region of the Southwestern desert.
WOVEN STONE gathers three books previously published, collections primarily of poetry but also including stories, essays, and narratives interspersed amid the poems. Ortiz, like many contemporary Native American writers, is concerned with connecting the heritage of Indian thought and practice ranging over more than one thousand years with the difficulties of life in America for Indians today. The first section, “Going For The Rain,” is divided into four parts: “The Preparation,” which covers Ortiz’s earliest memories and his education with his family, as well as his first acquaintance with the myth and lore of his people; “Leaving,” which follows his initiation into the world of strangers beyond his community; “Returning,” which details his confusion as he tries...
(The entire section is 434 words.)