Although American Indian poetry is widely read and discussed,
few resources have been available that focus on it critically. This book is the first collection of essays on the genre, bringing poetry out from under the shadow of fiction in the study of Native American literature.
Speak to Me Words is a stimulating blend of classic articles and original pieces that reflect the energy of modern American Indian literary studies. Highlighting various aspects of poetry written by American Indians since the 1960s, it is a wide-ranging collection that balances the insights of Natives and non-Natives, men and women, old and new voices. Included here are such landmark articles as "Answering the Deer" by Paula Gunn Allen, "Herbs of Healing" by Carter Revard, and "Song, Poetry and Language—Expression and Perception" by Simon Ortiz—all pieces that have shaped how we think about Native poetry. Among the contributions appearing for the first time are Elaine Jahner writing on Paula Gunn Allen's use of formal structures; Robert Nelson addressing pan-Indian tropes of emergence, survival, return, and renewal; and Janet McAdams focusing on Carter Revard's "angled mirrors." Although many Native writers may disregard distinctions between genres, together these writings help readers see the difference between American Indian poetry and other forms of Native literature.
These essays are as broad, encompassing, and provocative as Native poetry itself, branching off from and weaving back into one another. In showing how American Indian poetry redefines our social order and articulates how Indian communities think about themselves, these writers establish a new foundation for the study—and enjoyment—of this vital art.