Travels and New Paths On the Horizon
Over the past five months I’ve traveled a great deal, made new friends, connected with old friends, and read a few new books, even given readings from my new manuscript. This blog post is perhaps more of a diary entry because it helps me remember where I’ve been. And where I’m going.
On March 2, 2016 I traveled to Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah for the Branding the American West Symposium, and to celebrate the publication of the book (above) by the same name. My friend, poet and scholar Dean Rader got me involved in the book project and art exhibition about two years ago. We all had various assignments, his was to write about art and landscapes. His essay, “Part of the Strangeness, Notes On Landscapes And the American West,” tackles artists such as Walter Ufer, Maynard Dixon, and Kenneth Miller Adams, among others, and discuss the tensions in their work. My assignment was to write about classic Hollywood movies and representations about Indians. “Imagine There’s No Cowboy, It’s Easy If you Try,” is about images in films that portray American Indians as “savages.” It’s a first person account of growing up in Oklahoma and watching bad Westerns on tv every Friday night and hoping that just once the Indians would defeat the cowboys. It never happened. Today the academic industry of critical inquiry known as “settler colonialism,” frankly does nothing to alleviate the suffering of “the person[s] to whom things happen,” paraphrasing Virginia Woolf. Uh-hem.
In Branding The American West, Rader’s essay opens the book and mine closes it. Call us bookends. The lovely coffee table book, edited by Marian Wardle and Sarah Boehme, is filled with essays about the west. Authors included are: Jon Ott, Jimmy L. Bryan, Susan Rugh, and Elizabeth Hutchins. Check it out at your local bookstores or online.
Minerva K. Teichert’s Stampede in the Canyon.
I love Teichert’s painting, it’s large and very romantic and I think of it as a long shot in the 1950s tv show, The Lone Ranger. I also wrote about The Wind. Crimony, it’s one of the scariest silent films ever. The Wind is a good story and Lillian Gish is a remarkable actress. Her gestures in the silents are always on the mark, powerfully acted. But sad to say that in The Wind, American Indians are portrayed as menacing demons. Typical.
Pictured below are some of the students from Patrick Madden’s (far left) BYU creative writing class that I got to meet while at the symposium. They asked great questions about the writing process, and how a writer chooses the stories he or she chooses to tell.
Some of the faculty from the USA and UK that attended the Branding The American West Symposium March 2016. Far right is Wendy Castenell, Assistant Professor of African American Art, University of Alabama.
Searching for Sequoyah, A New Documentary Film in the Making
Beginning on March 9, 2016 we began filming interviews from our new documentary Searching For Sequoyah. The film is about the Cherokee genius Sequoyah who in 1808 began working on a system to write the Cherokee language. He worked in secret. Some people thought he was crazy. Others thought he must be practicing sorcery, threading sounds on an invisible symbol. Finally, in 1821, Sequoyah perfected his syllabary, a symbol set with one character for each syllable in the language—86 of them. It is the only indigenous writing system north of Meso-America.
Searching for Sequoyah’s co-producer and cinematographer James M. Fortier and myself, co-producer and screenwriter, are working along with Dr. Jace Weaver, Director of UGA’s Institute for Native American Studies, and University of Oklahoma professor Dr. Joshua Nelson (Cherokee) on the new documentary. We interviewed Sequoyah’s lineal descendants in Tahlequah, OK in March along with Dr. Daniel Justice, (Cherokee) who traveled from University of British Columbia, Vancouver for the film project. We are very grateful that he came for the filming. We will will likely continue to work on the project for the next couple of years. Perhaps longer. Pictured left to right. Winnie Guess Perdue, Joshua Nelson, and John Ross. Both Perdue and Ross are direct descendants of Sequoyah.
Left to right: Joshua Nelson, Grace Milley, and Jace Weaver on the grounds at the Cherokee Museum. March 2016.
James Fortier filming in downtown Tahlequah.
Left to right: Joshua Nelson, Grace Milley, Daniel Justice, (me) and Matt Jennings dining after a day of filming in Tahlequah.
March 17-20, 2016 Native American Literature Symposium, NALS, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The highpoint of this year’s Native American Literature Symposium (NALS) 2016 was a children’s dance they performed for the conference goers. This is our 16th year for hosting NALS.
Pictured left to right are Miriam Brown Spiers, Padraig Kirwan, and myself, NALS 2016. Padraig and I are editing a collection of essays, “Transatlantic Reciprocity: Contextualizing Exchanges between the Choctaw & the Irish. “
NALS academics 2016, Albuquerque.Gwen Westerman, left, NALS symposium director. Craig Howe, keynote speaker at NALS, 2016, far right, and creator of CAIRINS in South Dakota.
Indians sharing a dirty joke. NALS 2016. (I don’t know why I say such things. Everyone knows Indians don’t tell dirty jokes and we don’t laugh. Check out a classic Hollywood western, Indians are not laughing.)
More NALS academics 2016. All friends and wonderful scholars.
ABQ, New Mexico was fun, but it’s time to move onto AWP conference in Los Angeles, CA March 30-April 2, 2o16.
UGA’s Creative Writing Program hosted an off-site reading during the 2016 AWP conference in LA. We called our event, “shock and awe.” (Kidding.) Pictured here are UGA’s very excellent graduate students.Pictured here with the Vermont College of Fine Arts 35th Anniversary Reading group. We all read from our new work. Left to right: Bret Lott, Neela Vaswani, Alison Deming, Rigoberto Gonzalez, me, and Ellen Lesser. Here we are at the book signing for Cutthroat Journal’s beautiful new anthology at AWP 2016.
AWP 2016. LA has some cool restaurants. See the blue flame below.
“After the absinthe.” See the blue fire in the glass in the picture above, 2016. Left to right. Chris, (me), Dean Rader, Jonathan Silverman.
Hot Off the Press: Red Ink
That takes me up to my visit at Pembroke NC, and my visit to University of North Florida. I”ll save that for another post. Yeah, like I said, this is mostly a diary of what I’ve been doing the last eight weeks or so. It’s been a busy semester, but I’ve managed to read two great new books, Olio O by Tyehimbia Jess, and handholding: 5 kinds by Tracie Morris. Check’em out. As for me I’ve completed a new book manuscript. Will see what happens next.