2012 has been a red-letter year. First I was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Native Writers Circle of the Americas in September 2012. As the year draws to a close, I learn I’m awarded a 2012 USA Ford Fellowship and $50,000 grant. http://www.usafellows.org/fellows. United States Artists gives 2.5 million directly to artists. Thank you, thank you, thank you all for all your support, and thank you sister for belief in my work as an artist and writer, and thank you dear family.
Each year, United States Artists honors 50 of America’s finest artists with individual fellowship awards of $50,000 each.
If I look shell shocked in the picture, that’ s because I am. The photo was taken during the awards ceremony, a gala event at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles December 2, 2012. The celebration was elegant, snazzy, and filled with humble, yet exuberant artists. There were the presentations by various artists, dancers, musicians, and poet Adrian Castro, USA Fellow 2012 read from his work. Emcee Tim Robbins, (actor) gave a heartfelt introduction about the work of artists and the impact on future generations. He said he’d recently attended the funeral of a young pianist who’d first heard Mozart at a very early nine and then told his parents “I think you should buy me a piano.” Singer Linda Ronstadt spoke passionately about the work of Latino musicians and artists in their communities. And OMG, I got to meet actor, poet, and photographer, Leonard Nimoy. He’s one of my lifelong heros.
In the picture at the right, I’m standing beside Edgar Heap of Birds, another Native from Oklahoma and 2012 United States Artists’ recipient. But the main reason I’m shocked is because of the other 2012 winners for literature. I can’t believe I’m a part of this group! No really, I can’t believe I’m one of the 2012 literary winners.
Cantos to Blood and Honey (1997), won the Eric Mathiue King Award from the Academy of American Poets. The New York Times Review of Books selected his second collection, Wise Fish: Tales in 6/8 Time as an Editor’s Choice, noting its “sinuous syncopated verses.” Castro has taught at several universities, including the University of Miami. He is also a trained Chinese medical practitioner as well as a Babalawo, a priest in the Yoruba Ifá divination system.
Known as a fiction writer he became stranded during the outbreak of the Bosnian war while visiting from his native Sarajevo. He writes about displacement and exile, mixing autobiography and fiction. Hemon has published two novels and two collections of short stories. His first novel, Nowhere Man (2002), was shortlisted for a National Book Critics Circle Award. His second novel, The Lazarus Project (2008), was a finalist for the National Book Award. Hemon has received numerous honors, including a MacArthur Fellowship in 2004.
Micheline Aharonian Marcom
Born to an American father and an Armenian-Lebanese mother, novelist Micheline Aharonian Marcom spent many childhood summers in Beirut. Her first book, Three Apples Fell From Heaven (2001) deals with the Armenian genocide by the Ottoman government and was named one of the best books of the year by both The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. The Daydreaming Boy (2004), about a genocide survivor living in 1960s Beirut, won the 2005 PEN/USA Award for Fiction. Marcom received a Whiting Writer’s Award in 2006 and is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Mills College and Goddard College.
Renowned fiction writer Annie Proulx worked as a journalist before turning to short stories. Proulx has said that her work concerns “rural working class occupations against a background of social and economic change.” She is best known for second her novel, The Shipping News (1993), which won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award (both 1994). Her equally famous “Brokeback Mountain” originally appeared as a short story in The New Yorker in 1997. The story won an O. Henry Prize in 1998, and the collection in which it appeared, Close Range: Wyoming Stories, was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize (2000).
Writer C. E. Morgan’s debut novel, All the Living (2009), won the Weatherford Award as an outstanding work of fiction depicting Appalachia. It was also a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway First Fiction Book Award and the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award. Morgan was selected by the National Book Foundation as one of its “5 under 35” honorees (2009) and was included on The New Yorker’s 2010 “20 under 40” list of best emerging fiction writers.
Below are pictures taken at another lovely event that was sponsored by United States Artists org. We’re at a lovely home on one of the hills outside of Santa Monica on Dec. 3. Claire Lynch is a fantastic musician, wow, what a talent. What a gift it was to meet everyone and see the amazing work of other American artists. One final note on art in America: 94 percent of Americans love art, but only about 20 percent of Americans like artists. If that’s true United States Artists.org is out to change opinions.
Salon Ada Dispatch: Year #5, Day 1
Ceremony underlies a society’s values. Salon Ada artists took time out from our regularly scheduled ceremonial feast to raise a glass on the sighting of the infamous Higgs boson. It’s no secret that artists have celebrated the boson in poetry and song for decades, but physicists (long in the slacker category) had to see it to believe it.
At last, physicists’ findings affirm the grand view of the universe described as concise, symmetrical laws. It seems everything, including us, results from flaws or breaks in that symmetry. Hence art! I’m happy to report that Salonaires did their part to officially recognize the Higgs boson as “found.” Shouts of hurrah for the boson could be heard throughout West Ada way into the night. . .
Salon Ada Dispatch: Year #5, Day 2
Wandering bewilderedly in the kitchen in the early morning hours, (10 a.m.) dehydrated, after a night of legendary hospitality, (my own) I found author and scholar Chad Allen, alone among a sea of wine glasses, looking for a clean juice cup in which to pour Mighty Mango. Outside other Salonaires began arriving for Day 2 of our summer soirée. Poet Ken Hada pulled up in front of the Art Houses (above) in a red Ferrari California 30. Yeah, we were all surprised to find that he’d traded in his belov’d white truck for Ferrari, but hey, poetry pays. Multi-media artist Dustin Mater arrived in a dynamic Renault Alpine; writer and world traveler Linda Hogan sported a 1952 Jaguar C-type, a formula one racer, my, my, these Chickasaws and their cars. Poetess Jennifer Kidney came in a stretch limo, her driver on call for the next morning, and Monique Mojica flew her jet from Toronto, Canada to Ada’s small, but chic airpark. It seems feckless eccentricity has infected us all.
By 10:30 a.m. other stalwarts braved the Oklahoma heatto enjoy the rich flavors of espresso bagels, cantaloupe, fresh berries, and dark exotic coffees. Salon Ada is an annual literary event where artists gather (see Art Houses pictured above) to augment their knowledge of one another’s work through the art of conversation. We talk. This year’s Salonaires were Linda Hogan, Jennifer Kidney, Monique Mojica, Dustin Mater, Jim Wilson, Phillip Carroll Morgan, Greg Rodgers, and Katie Morgan, along with Chahta Women’s fastpitch coach Jay Watson, and Sheila Watson. (We tried running a water mister outside the house on Friday night to keep us cool, but the garden hose broke and we were left to suffer in 102 plus heat.) Not to worry it finally cooled to a smooth 99 Fahrenheit by midnight. Thank you, Higgs boson.
Ginormous Awards and Prestigious News from Salonaires, 2012:
Phillip Carroll Morgan – He’s the 2012 winner of the gold medal for his book Dynamic Chickasaw Women, Chickasaw Nation Press, 2011, co-authored with Judy Goforth. For more on the award see http://www.independentpublisher.com/article.php?page=1534&urltitle=2012 Independent Publisher Book Awards Results. Currently, Phil is at work on the roots of Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha, and its deeply Chickasaw connection via Cyrus Harris, (1817-1888) five term governor of the Chickasaw Nation.
Phil writes. “The setting for most of William Faulkner’s novels and short stories was Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi. Faulkner said his fictional county seat, Jefferson, was a fictional Oxford, Mississippi, his permanent home, the county seat of present day Lafayette County, MS. The first “governor” of the Chickasaws, Cyrus Harris, elected in 1856 was born in 1817 in his mother’s, Molly Gunn’s, home which they had named Yocknepatafa (from Yakni patafa which in either Chickasaw or Choctaw means furrowed land). That home was built atop an ancient ceremonial mound a few miles south of Pontotoc, Mississippi. Faulkner was born at New Albany, a few miles west of Pontotoc. Faulkner’s great-grandfather, WC Falkner, grew up in the same neighborhood around Pontotoc as Cyrus Harris.
WC Falkner was a few years younger than Cyrus but they probably knew each other. These facts are central to the second chapter of my current book, working title: Riding Out the Storm: Chickasaw Governors in the Nineteenth Century. The book, (which I have a free hand in) is morphing more toward literary criticism as it rolls out. I presented a Chickasaw/Choctaw reading of Faulkner and also of Eudora Welty, cotemporary with Faulkner and who lived her life less than a three-hour drive away from Faulkner. The Nobel Prize probably eluded Welty because the committee couldn’t bring themselves to award it to practically next-door neighbors.
Journal of Chickasaw History and Culture is publishing the first chapter titled, “The Maze of Colonialism: The Byrds of Virginia and Indian Territory.” In it, I examine the work of Chickasaw Governor (1888-1892) William Leander Byrd through theoretical lenses provided by his great-grand niece Jodi A. Byrd in Transits of Empire (University of Minnesota Press, 2011), focusing most intently on his tumultuous election campaign in 1888, shortly after Congress passed the Dawes Act. I also trace in the chapter the 338-year trajectory of the Byrd family in America, from the first William Byrd who arrived in 1674 to Jodi Byrd, alive and kickin’ in 2012 . . . .”
Dustin Mater – His new design of a Pendleton blanket was released in spring by Pendleton Blankets USA. http://www.pendleton-usa.com/category/Home-Blankets/Blankets/1821/pc/1816.uts?=&prid=googleblanketnonbrandblanket&gclid=CNz56YfNtbECFcVgTAod9hEAUg . See the “Spring Blanket” on the website. It’s glorious.
Pendleton has manufacturing Native blanket designs since 1909. Dustin’s blanket is the first Mississippian Indian [design] to ever be part of the Pendleton Collection in their 2012 Legendary Blanket series. Dustin has also joined the design team for the new play, Sideshow Freaks and Circus Injuns, co-authored by Monique Mojica and me. Our director is Michael Greyeyes. Other set and custom designers for the play include: Marcus Amerman, Michel Charbonneau, and Erika Iserhoff.
Rilla Askew – Her new novel, Kind of Kin, Ecco, January 2013 is about Oklahoma’s anti-illegal immigration law HB 1804 and its effects on a family and a small town in southeastern Oklahoma. She has hosted Salon Ada events at her Mountain home outside of McAlester, Oklahoma. She writes. ”In late July and August, Ken Hada will be going to Chicago and New York City. Ken will be giving a reading at my husband’s theatre in upstate New York in August, among other fun readings and adventures he has planned. Ken and my family are going to visit our Okie-ness upon New York City while he’s in town. Which is where, in fact, LeAnne and I first met in about 1990, when she was reading her fabulous short story about a Choctaw woman in New York… The circles are mighty.”
Monique Mojica – Chocolate Woman Dreams The Milky Way, a play written by Monique is slated to go on road this fall. See a review, http://www.mooneyontheatre.com/2011/06/09/review-chocolate-woman-dreams-the-milky-way-chocolate-woman-collective/
She’s also published a new essay, “In Plain Sight: Inscripted Earth and Invisible Realities,” in New Canadian Realisms, New Essays on Canadian Theatre, Volume 2, Playwrights Canada Press, forthcoming in September, 2012. The essay discusses the embodied research on effigy mounds & earthworks that Monique and I are engaged in as part of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) grant.
Monique just wrapped up the very first research and creation workshop for Side Show Freaks and Circus Injuns with seven other collaborators in Toronto. “Exhausting and super satisfying,” writes Monique. “Dreaming worlds into being!!”
Ken Hada – He’s on a national book tour with The River White this summer: On August 1, 2012 he’ll be at Caffe Lena, Saratoga Springs, NY; August 4, Liberty Free Theater, Liberty, NY; and August 9 at the Book Cellar, Chicago.
You can read a review of the book at http://www.worldliteraturetoday.com/2012/july/river-white-confluence-brush-and-quill. Ken is also introducing a new CD he and his musician son, Kenny collaborated on, titled: Like Father, Like Son.
Linda Hogan – INDIOS, an epic poem meant to be performed, just came out, April 2012. A national book club picked it up! She has New and Selected Poems coming out from Coffee House Press, 2013. The manuscript is due in July and she’s trying to get it all ready before she went to Taiwan on July 9 to speak at an International Women Writers Conference. “I love Taiwan,” says Linda.
“They actually read my work there and treat me well! And the people are kind. So over the years, I’ve made friends.” In the fall, she’s putting together her poems, specifically in Chickasaw for the Chickasaw Press. And she is finishing a book for the Chickasaw map project.
Jennifer Kidney – Her new book, Road Work Ahead, Village Book Press, Alpine, Texas, 2012 is out. She’s currently an adjunct assistant professor for the College of Liberal Studies at the University of Oklahoma.
“I teach a very demanding course called “Interdisciplinary Foundations,” and the readings are: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn; The Selfish Gene by that famous atheist Richard Dawkins; and, Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol that explores the deplorable condition of public education in our country. All of these are far out of my field (English). This was my first time ever to teach an on-line course.” She was also nominated for a teaching award this year. She says, “Meanwhile, I’m also doing writing workshops and author presentations at public libraries all over Oklahoma. If anyone would invite me out of state, I’d be glad to come!”
Greg Rodgers – His new story, “Giddy Up Wolfie,” just came out in Trickster, Native American Tales, A Graphic Collection, Fulcrum, 2012. http://www.amazon.com/Trickster-American-Graphic-Collection-Fulcrum/dp/1555917240
It’s beautifully illustrated.
Greg will be joining the MFA program at the University of Illinois this fall. We’re thrilled to have him in our program.
He was also in DC this summer. His new film short; Choctaw Places and the Stories They Tell was funded as part of the Tribal Heritage Research Fellowship provided by the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums. He learned editing techniques in this introduction to filmmaking from another Salonaire alum 2011, Carol Cornsilk http://www.rtvf.unt.edu/content/carol-cornsilk
Carol was the Producer/Director/Editor and Executive Producer of Indian Country Diaries/Spiral of Fire, a 90-minute documentary about the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, 2006. She lived and breathed the film for 6 years of her life. http://www.pbs.org/indiancountry/about/spiral.html.
Chad Allen – His new book Trans-Indigenous: Methodologies for Global Native Literary Studies is due, fall 2012 from University of Minnesota Press. Anyone you’re interested in reading more about it and/or seeing the very beautiful cover, check out: http://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/trans-indigenous
In October 2011, Chad organized and hosted The Society of American Indians Centennial Symposium at Ohio State. He’s following that up with a collection of essays that will be published as a special combined issue of the American Indian Quarterly and Studies in American Indian Literatures. He was also promoted to full professor this year.His latest article related to his new book “A Transnational Native American Studies? Why Not Studies That Are Trans-Indigenous?” appears in the Journal of Transnational American Studies. He’s also working on a fabulous novel, but that’s on the QT!
Jim Wilson — Besides teaching creative writing at the Chickasaw Summer Arts Academy for the fourth consecutive year, he co-authored, “Life in a Mound City” for World of Indigenous North America, Vols. I & II edited by Robert Warrior, Routledge, 2014. He writes.
“I presented at AWP this year in Chicago, IL from my memoir, The Journeyman, of living through 7 yrs in Beirut during Lebanon’s civil war in the 80s. It’s a story about love in the time of civil war. I also participated in the Accelerated Learning Program (ALP) conference in Baltimore, Maryland in June. There were several hundred participants from around the country, yet most of the presentations came from the Community College of Baltimore County (the host institution), and a number community colleges faculty from California and New York City. Because I like to teach students that they can borrow from other cultures and languages when writing an academic essay in English, I attended several sessions about pedagogy for ESL courses. Experts are finding that ESL students–often good in spoken skills and class participation–can be slower writers because their native grammars (even those from “World English” countries, where the language is a Creole) tend to override that of so-called “Standard English.” Engaging and adjusting for a student’s cultural context (like mother language, history, etc.) helps both teacher and student to put the learning process in perspective and hopefully provide a greater chance of success.”
Katie Morgan – A multi-media artist, she’s working on a series derived from an early painting of hers, and hard at work on both sculpting and painting. She shared her pen and inks sketchbook with Salonaires. Fantastic.
LeAnne Howe – Okay, here’s my news: In April, I was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas, http://wordcraftcircle.org/featured. The awards ceremony will be in September in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It’s wonderful to be recognized by my peers around the country. I owe a debt of thanks to everyone that works on the award; the voting and publicity announcement. Yakoke.
This past year, I’ve finished three essays that have whipped my knickers threadbare! “Natives and Performance Culture” for the Oxford Handbook of Indigenous American Literatures, Cambridge, 2014, edited by Daniel Justice (Salonaire alum) and James Cox. “Life in a Mound City” for World of Indigenous North America, Vols. I & II edited by Robert Warrior, Routledge, 2014. And finally (long overdue) “Comes Now Ballgame’s Tribalography: Embodied Story” intended for a special edition of SAIL edited by Joseph Bauerkemper.
Big News: Seeing Red, Hollywood’s Pixeled Skins: Indians in Film, Michigan State University Press, 2013, co-edited with Harvey Markowitz and Denise Cummings is a collection of thirty-six essays on American Indians and indigenous peoples in film we’ve been working on since Moses crossed the Red Sea. It’s finally coming out in 2013. Cover art by Jim Denomie, fab.
Essays, funny and smart. Seeing Red . . . questions Native representations/stereotypes in the last 100 years of Hollywood movies. While most students have never heard of the Lone Ranger and Tonto, much less that iconic mantra “Hi-ho Silver, away,” unless they’ve seen the promos with Johnny Depp as Tonto, (newly-adopted into the Comanche Nation by renown Comanche elder LaDonna Harris) the anthology promises a lot of laughs and even a few tears, . . . goodnight Mr. Wayne.
More Big News: Choctalking on Other Realities, a collection of New and Selected Stories will be out in 2013, Aunt Lute Books, San Francisco. These stories are about my travels abroad as a CIA agent, and crazy Indian holidays in America.
So what is Salon Ada? It’s a lot of things; productive people coming together to talk about art, often we question what drives our work, and much more. Of course we share fabulous foods over the week-end, like Jennifer’s flourless chocolate cake, and Katie’s rhubarb pie. We got some art-nerve-endings out of our bodies and onto the page, in film, or on the canvass, or even on the base and ball playing field.
There was endless talk this year about money and prestige and power in America politics. As P.J. ORourke says, “Money is hackneyed and power is trivial, the real gauge is fame.” I confess I don’t know what fame is, but at Salon Ada, artistic worth is all around us just like the Higgs boson.
PS: That business about the cars and jets, some of the facts have been changed to suit the story.
Pictured above are the students from St. Michael’s Indian School.
February 1-3, 2012, I was the guest of Navajo Technical College, St. Michael’s Indian School at Window Rock, and Diné College, Tsaile, AZ. All three institutions are on the Navajo Reservation.
While visiting Navajo Technical College, Crown Point, NM, I read from my poetry, and my fiction to a large group of students and community folks. It was wonderful. My host was friend and colleague, Dr. Wesley Thomas, professor and director of Diné Studies. Dr. Thomas, anthropologist and author is one of the three editors of Two-Spirit People: Native American Gender Identity, Sexuality, and Spirituality, and Two Spirits: A Story of Life With the Navajo, (along with Walter Williams and Toby Johnson). We first met in 1994 at a conference in Iowa City, IA, and he’s an amazing scholar.
Pictured above: Dr. Wesley Thomas and students at Navajo Technical College.
At St. Michael’s Catholic School, Window Rock, AZ, I was the guest of teacher Joan Levitt’s class and her class titled, Senior British and World Literature. She held a senior Socratic seminar on my novel Miko Kings: An Indian Baseball Story. The students were incredibly well prepared (which speaks to the preparation of Ms. Levitt) and discussed questions of race; American Indian history; baseball among Southeastern tribes; and whether, at the end of the novel, Hope Little Leader really does change history by winning “his last game.” I was deeply impressed with their thoughtful approach to the novel.
Senior Shayney Begay designed the art sign in two languages, Choctaw and Navajo, “Hello or greetings”
On Thursday night, February 2, we left St. Michael’s at Window Rock and traveled by mini-van up, up, up, into the mountains through the snow and over the ridge to Diné College. Diné College, locarted in Tsaile was founded in 1968 and is the first of 37 tribal colleges. Frankly, I was not sure we were going to make it over the mountains to Diné College, but our driver Cleofus Nelson, a first-year secondary English teacher, was fearless and had driven the road to Diné College a jillion times. Cleofus is currently pursuing his masters’ degree in counseling while he teaches at St. Michaels.
Pictured are teachers Joan Levitt and Cleofus Nelson.
We were hosted by Diné poet Orlando White, professor at Diné College, and, head librarian Herman Peterson. The Diné College library is magnificent and I read in a room of glass, the R.C. Gorman room, both cozy and intimate. The audience was great; they came out on a snowy night to be there. By the way, if you have not read Orlando’s book, Bone Light, (Red Hen Press, 2009) rush out and get it, or Click buy it, online! Book reviewer Elizabeth Robinson writes of his poetry: “Orlando White’s Bone Light recreates poetry from the molecular level.” Writer, poet, and artist Layli Longsoldier gave an introduction to my reading that made me want to cry. She talked about art, and the landscape of writing. I can’t thank everyone enough at these three institutions for making my visit feel like I’d pulled on a warm blanket.
And Now This – the AWP
“Writing the Middle East” panelists: me, Jim Wilson, Allison Hedge Coke, Matthew Shenoda, and Hayan Charara
This year I was also chair of the AWP panel, “Writing the Middle East, Crossing Genre, Crossing Borders.” (See group shot above.) We discussed crossing “West to East” into landscapes of olives and almonds, Arabian deserts and mountains, love affairs and war zones, green lines, religions, and concrete walls that divide. Our panel explored how translation and transliteration play a role in writing the Middle East. Participants included, Matthew Shenoda, author of Somewhere Else, that brings pre-Islamic Copts to life in Egypt; Arab-American poet Hayan Charara, editor of Inclined to Speak: An Anthology of Contemporary Arab American Poetry. His PhD in literature and creative writing is from the Univ. of Houston. He’s also President of RAWI, the Radius of Arab American Writers; and Jim Wilson, archaeologist, memoirist, assistant professor of English at Seminole State. He writes of seven years in Beirut Lebanon’s civil war; Allison Hedge Coke, poet, Reynolds Chair Professor at University of Nebraska, Kearney, and author of six books. She explores her Jordan travel experience. And me. I read about my year in Amman, Jordan during the 2011 Arab Spring, and about my new novel that reveals a Choctaw in the 1917 Arab Revolt.
See the cool shot video of the AWP: http://brevity.wordpress.com/2012/03/07/awp-2012-the-movie/
It’s been no secret that I’ve been under the weather for a few months, but all better now, back to blogging about what I’m up to in the universe these days. I just returned from AWP’s conference in Chicago. I want to thank Denise Low, former AWP President, for all her hard work for American Indians and Indigenous Writers during her tenure as President. Egad, 11,000 writers this year at the AWP conference with some 18 Native writers presenting at the three-day-gathering in Chicago, IL. I’ve been told by AWP conference organizers that Natives will no longer be assured of an Indigenous Caucus panel because each of the “caucus events” takes a slot away from a proposal that would otherwise have been accepted to the schedule.
Do what? Say again?
This seems odd to me since the AWP Indigenous Caucus proposal has always competed (or acted as if they were competing) for a panel slot. And I take issue with the idea that American Indians/Indigenous peoples are taking a slot away from someone else. . . (this sounds a bit sinister).
Pictured above: AWP Indigenous Caucus panelists: Gordon Henry, Bojan Louis, Phil Morgan, me.
As a response to this kind of thing, I’ve thrown down the gauntlet (glove in my case) and tried to give a rousing speech to the American Indians/Natives/Indigenous people at our AWP Indigenous Caucus panel this year. I don’t know what will happen next year, but I’m confident that Native writers at the AWP Indigenous Caucus are not going to take a slot away from a more worthy panel. Hopefully this will work itself out before the May 3 AWP proposal deadline. (Will someone please divide 11,000 attendees by 18. Native writers are growing in numbers and fast at AWP. But we are a tiny minority. )
(Pictured left is Tacey Atsitty, and far right, Layli Longsoldier. In the middle is Layli’s and Orlando White’s daughter. Someone please jog my memory for her name. She was a great listener at my Diné College reading.)
My news is that I’m working on two books, a memoir in short stories, and a novel, and finishing up some wildly overdue essays, (I know, I know I’m late, I’m more than late) and attending a spate of conferences this spring. My next upcoming conference March 28-31 2012 is the Native American Literature Symposium (NALS) http://www.mnsu.edu/nativelit/ in Albuquerque New Mexico at the Isleta Pueblo. I’ll be giving a keynote Friday evening at 7 p.m., March 30, titled: ”Writing the Crest of Revolution: A Choctaw In King Abdullah’s Court.”
Hope to see you there!
Last week, the Creative Writing program and American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois hosted poet and professor Dean Rader for a reading and a lecture on September 28 – 29, 2011.
This coming week, members of the American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois will drive in a van [yikes, all together, one for all and all for one. Somehow that sounds all wrong to me?!] to Ohio State University to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Society of American Indians (SAI). SAI, was originally formed in 1911 at Ohio State University in Columbus to work on issues facing Native peoples in the early 2oth century. Some fifty American Indians were part of the organizational meeting. Founding members included Dr. Carlos Montezuma (Yavapai-Apache), Charles Eastman (Dakota),Thomas L. Sloan (Omaha), Charles E. Dagenett (Peoria), Laura Cornelius (Oneida), and Chief Henry Standing Bear (Oglala Lakota), among others.
Watch for two new books by Muscogee Creek poet Joy Harjo coming out this fall! Congratulations Joy.
And there we are side by side in a stolen car driving a promise road fast trying to escape the very place we’ve come from and paid good money for, and you floorboard it down the paved road until we hit the guardrail and sail across a dusty sandstone cliff onto an Oklahoma hay pasture, the car bucks to and fro like a rodeo bull but you don’t flinch; no, sir, you yank the gear shift into first, gun it, and off we go toward Big Sandy Creek, laughing. Somehow we look into each other’s eyes and I can hear you say, see, what did I tell you. . .
My poem is an attempt to explain how I feel about Oklahoma, I love it, but I often run away from it like an escape artist. On September 16, 17, at the 5 Tribes Story Conference writers, storytellers, filmmakers, performers, researchers broke all boundaries between us — and I was reminded (again) why I always return home . . .
The event was held at the famous Bacone College in Muskogee, Oklahoma and shows why artists migrate in and out of Oklahoma, ever-returning, ever-living in Indian Territory and parts unknown.
Some things I said in my opening remarks were that for most of my life, I’ve tried to live up to what it meant to be an American Indian. When I was young, I was very ignorant of what it meant to be “Indian.” Everyone in my family was “Indian,” both my adopted Cherokee family, and my Choctaw birth family. I didn’t know that we were any different from other families. We were just people doing what people do. When I’ve stopped to think about it, I’ve had relatives that were barbers, soldiers, sheriff’s deputies, bakers, cleaning ladies, farmers, bronco riders, teachers, local feed mill workers, and Avon ladies. Two of my great aunts worked in airplane factory in California during WW2. All these people were Indians.
But does any of this sound particularly “Indian?”
As I was growing up in the 1960s, the world seemed very chaotic: the Vietnam war, the struggle for civil rights, the police beating up American Indians in Oklahoma City every Friday night, these were reoccurring events, juxtaposed against regular family gatherings in Ada, and other towns in southeastern Oklahoma. Some of my great uncles and aunts went to stomp dance, and would also host family reunions in and around Ada. Relatives would come home each summer from California, Arizona, New Mexico and even Texas. There were all night sings at Stonewall with a great aunt playing the piano, my grandfather playing the fiddle, elders feeding the spirits, and me, eating crackers and squirrel dumplings listening, watching all these goings-on until I would fell asleep on family quilt. My relatives would sing church hymns and popular songs, and I can remember my Cherokee grandmother singing Mockin’Bird Hill, a song written by Vaughn Horton, 1951. I still know the refrain.
Does any of this sound particularly “Indian?” (There’s that word again.)
Tribal peoples in Oklahoma would say “yes,” but mainstream Americans would say, “not really” because they expect Indians to look and be like “Hollywood Sioux,” riding horses and making statements like, “Today is a good day to die.” I don’t mean to be disrespectful to the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota peoples, I’m merely suggesting that because of Hollywood, everyone thinks we look like the Indians in John Ford films.
The 5 Tribes Story Conference showcased stories about who we are now, and who we were back when. . . I’m indebted to my Choctaw brethren, Greg Rodgers and Tim Tingle, and Mary Robinson, director of the 5 Tribes Museum in Muskogee, Oklahoma for creating this wonderful event.
My storyteller definition includes academics, (especially theorists) no matter the discipline. The umbrella is large, but not unwieldy.
Can you name any of the storytellers in the pictures without captions? If you can, give them a shout out the blog and I’ll send you a bookmark.
Pictured are various writers at the first Carr Series’ dinner for Rolando Hinojosa-Smith for Creative Writing at Illinois. And one pix from the 5 Tribes Story Conference. C’mon, names anyone?
To quote the late Choctaw author Roxy Gordon, here are “some things I did” – at least since my last blog in March 2011.
In April and May, 2011 I had radiation for the nuclear reactor in my body, the thyroid. The similarities between your body’s metabolic system melting down, and a nuclear reactor meltdown are stunning. Metaphor-wise, I mean. With Graves Disease’ running amuck in one’s body, the levels of T4 and T3 rise to dangerous levels and burn out the control valves in your thyroid gland. T4 and T3 control how quickly your body uses energy i.e., the heart constantly races ahead, as you shed pounds and muscle; heart, kidneys, begin to suffer, and you think you’re losing your mind. The thyronines act on nearly every cell in the body, including those in the brain. At the time I had radiation, I was living alone in Amman, Jordan. It was during the heady days of the Arab Spring. Living a solitary life turned out to be a good thing. The first few days after radiation you can’t be in direct contact with anyone because you’re leaking radiation like a nuclear reactor.
All better now. No worries.
Left: Wintertime in Wadi Rum. Sunset.
As a Fulbright scholar for 2010-2011, I was able to finish the semester at the University of Jordan in June, 2011, but not all of my research. Yet, I had wonderful graduate students at UJ. Pictured below.
Our last class together, and with some visitors to our class presentation. Pulling these pictures together for the blog makes me weepy. My students for this class were: Rasha Shaher, (back row, third from left) Majd Al-Kayed, (standing next to me, left) Malik al Khawaldeh, (standing on my right) Zainab Al Qaisi, (second row, second from left) and, Ayah Waqqad (front row third from left). Here’s a shout out to you all! One of my students from the fall semester 2010 is also pictured here: Eman Ghanayem, (front row, second from left). Here’s a shout out to Eman! Mabruk to Rasha, Madj, Zainab, Haneen, Eman that graduated with MA degrees. And, Mabruk ya Zainab and Ahmed on the day of your wedding, September 10 2011.
In my Spring 2011 graduate class at University of Jordan students chose to show Arab transnationalism and how it works in modern context by creating five film short-shorts that were loosely woven together in a presentation we called, At the Door of Spring. Each film project was created, written, filmed, produced, by a graduate student. Titles were: Amal’s Water [set in Libya]; Guevara, the Arab [set in Syria]; Fida’s Play [set in Egypt]; Khalid’s Choice [set in Palestine]; and Ooruba [a journalist covers each of the above events and narrates them.] I miss Jordan, long to see it again, soon, and I especially miss the wonderful students and the Jordanian people, their hospitality, and all the things they taught me. Below, here we are all piled into one car, zooming around Amman — for fun of it!
After classes finished, some other travels:
Flew to Beirut, Lebanon, for some additional research at the American University of Beirut.
Beirut, Yatiki alfia! More pixs, far below, and left.
Before leaving the Middle East, Jim Wilson and I devised Writing in Petra, a 10-day creative writing retreat in Petra, Jordan, June 2012. We hope to bring writers from England, Canada, the U.S. and other countries to write in a retreat in Petra, a city as old as time. If you’re interested in a cross-cultural writing adventure, check out our itinerary and website. We’re just now beginning to market the writing retreat to writers. We have 9 spaces left!
Saying good-byes, we left Amman, and headed straight for Alaska to the Kachemak Bay Writers Festival. Some 14-city stops later, we arrived in Homer, Alaska.
There were two eagles outside the hotel room window. I took that as a good sign, an eagle’s welcome.
The sun never sets in Alaska in June. So from desert sands reds to blue water and snow covered mountains. I gave readings, and creative writing lectures in Homer, Alaska, and suffered from jet lag, at least I think it was jet lag. I also got to see a dear friend of mine, Rigoberto Gonzales, fiction, CFN, and poet of six books. We also had a sing-along and bon fire in the land of midnight sun. A kind of dreamcycle moment for those of us not accustomed to midnight sun.
Pictured far below are authors to the left, and right and all around, with author Hannah Tinti (The Good Thief) on ukulele, singing with friends “If I had a hammer.”
Then back to Oklahoma in late June for Salon Ada: This year 8 writers and visual arts came together for a literary weekend in Ada, Oklahoma. Four new books that are out from Salonaires this year are: Hanging Men, by Alvin Turner; Spare Parts by Ken Hada, winner of the 2011 Western Heritage Award for poetry, Dynamic Chickasaw Women, by Philip Carroll Morgan, (Choctaw-Chickasaw) and Indios, by Linda Hogan (Chickasaw). Please give them a hand, or better yet, buy a book and read aloud to one another. Beats TV!
Speaking of new books, Illinois colleague Jodi Byrd, (Chickasaw) has a new book, Transit of Empire: Indigenous Critiques of Colonialism.
Her book sails out scross the heavens, September 15, 2011. Here pasted from the website: “In 1761 and again in 1769, European scientists raced around the world to observe the transit of Venus, a rare astronomical event in which the planet Venus passes in front of the sun. In The Transit of Empire, Jodi A. Byrd explores how indigeneity functions as transit, a trajectory of movement that serves as precedent within U.S. imperial history. Byrd argues that contemporary U.S. empire expands itself through a transferable “Indianness” that facilitates acquisitions of lands, territories, and resources.”
Also, colleague and friend, Dean Rader has a new book out, Engaged Resistance: American Indian Art, Literature, and Film from Alcatraz to the NMAI. Here’s a true confession. My copy just arrived this past week so I’ll be reading it before he transits from the University of San Francisco to University of Illinois next week. Pasted in from the University of Texas Press website: From “Sherman Alexie’s films to the poetry and fiction of Louise Erdrich and Leslie Marmon Silko to the paintings of Jaune Quick-To-See Smith and the sculpture of Edgar Heap of Birds, Native American movies, literature, and art have become increasingly influential, garnering critical praise and enjoying mainstream popularity. Recognizing that the time has come for a critical assessment of this exceptional artistic output and its significance to American Indian and American issues, Dean Rader offers the first interdisciplinary examination of how American Indian artists, filmmakers, and writers tell their own stories.”
Dean will also be reading in the Carr Reading Series, September 28, 4:30 p.m. at IUB on the Illinois campus. His first book of extraordinary poems, Work and Days, was winner of the coveted T. S. Eliot prize in poetry 2010. Look for the schedule of events on the Illinois’ Creative Writing website under “Carr Reading Series.” We’re delighted to host him.
Finally, I’m working on a new theater project with playwright and performer Monique Mojica. (Grandma Builds the Fire, Smoke Signals.) We’re working on a new play, Sideshow Freaks and Circus Injuns for which we (six principle investigators/researchers) were funded $238,500 by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Conseil de recherches en sciences humaines Research/Creation Grants in Fine Arts: November 2010 Competition Awards in Ontario Canada. The project is to research Indigenous knowledge, contemporary performance over the next three years. This past week we trekked across four states and visited mound sites. From mound sites outside of Toronto Canada, our travels took us to Cahokia Mounds, Poverty Point Mounds, Spiral Mounds, and finally Tuskahoma for the Choctaws Labor Day Festival.
Of course, once at the Choctaw Nation’s homelands, we hung out with ball players, and visited the Choctaw Museum and gift shop at Tuskahoma.
Above, Monique signs autographs while we talked to Jay Watson, coach of the Chahtas Women’s ball club. The Chahtas were winners of the 2011 Women’s Fastpitch Softball tournament at Red Warrior Park in Tuskahoma. Go Chahtas!
Working, writing, working, writing on new play, a new collection of short stories, nearly complete, a memoir, a scholarly book on base and ball, and a new novel. Okay sometimes I am all hat and no cattle, I admit. However, Seeing Red: American Indians and Film will be out next year, fingers crossed, from MSU Press, edited by Harvey Markowitz, Denise Cummings and myself. Whew, that’s all folks.
Beauty in front of me, beauty all around. Beauty in all things. . . achukma.
On Sunday, March 20, I’ll be giving a talk at Jordan University about my life as an American Indian author, and the craft of creative writing, filmmaking, and poetry. Here’s the notice from UJ.