Leanne Howe is one of Salt’s new Earthworks Series of American Indian poets. When I heard about the series, I can’t deny being dubious; marketing as motivation sprang to mind. But Salt have a history of publishing high quality poetry that really is high quality, not just something said on the packet. So I got hold of this collection…
…and unfortunately the opening series of poems expressing Choctaw mythology come across to me as earnest, they’re not alive the way Irish mythology of Irish history is alive, the way you hear it breathing in the British Isles.
The collection starts to wake up with an enjoyable sequence of short stories, memory and time shifting along an ordinary life of odd responsibility and … well, is this magic realism?
And then the poet roars. From the Red Wars:
We meet at a burial for an estranged skull.
He is holding a bunch of sage and chanting
for the dead in a language I don't understand.
I’m a reporter for the Dallas Morning News.
Ok, so that quote doesn’t have much to do with roaring, but that’s just me liking her sense of humour.
With more prose, Chotawing On Other Realities, she gets better & better… These times demand this quote:
The very word Jerusalem connotes religion. Three of them, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, birthed in that order. They all look the same to me.
The highlight, for me, is near then end of the collection, a series of poems walking with the comic–book character of Noble Savage, Indian Mascot, and others.
What Happened To Indian Mascot And Noble Savage—
After The Shooting?
They were never real.
This is Hollywood.
Throughout this collection, the ghost of the grandmother appears and disapproves, a common theme connecting the poet with her culture, or so it seems to me. I’m not sure whether she approves of this collection or not. I do, even though it fails in places.
Evidence of Red
ISBN 1 844710 62 9