Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

IN BRIEF

Poetry

December 27, 1992|SUSAN SALTER REYNOLDS

IN THE PRESENCE OF THE SUN: Stories and Poems 1961-1991 by N. Scott Momaday, with illustrations by N. Scott Momaday (St. Martin's Press: $17.95; 160 pp.). Momaday has been outrageously productive in a several media: more than three decades of poems, novels, essays, plays, drawings, prints and paintings, all proudly described in his preface to this collection. The first section is selected poems from 1961 to 1991; the second section is a group of story-poems, "The Strange and True Story of My Life With Billy the Kid"; the third section is a group of 17 prose poems describing various Plains Shields (an important part the Plains culture, both armor and medicine); and, in the final section, 20 new poems. In the first section, a series of four poems, "Plainview I-IV," shows Momaday's range and the number of worlds/cultures he encompasses. "Plainview: I" is very much like Emily Dickinson in rhythm and vision: "There falls a final shadow on the glare,/ A stillness on the dark, erratic air. / I do not hear the longer wind that lows / Among the magpies. Silences disclose. . . . " "Plainview: 2" is essentially a chant from yet another world: "Remember my horse running / Remember my horse / Remember my horse running / Remember my horse . " These song-like poems are very beautiful and evocative, especially when they conjure, as chants do, a vision: tall grasses, plains, smoke and horses. Still, Momaday's acute relationship to nature shines through almost every poem in the collection, whether he is storytelling, chanting or describing, as in "The Gourd Dancer": "A vagrant heat hangs on the dark river,/ And shadows turn like smoke. An owl descends. . . . " The "Gathering of Shields" section should be read aloud, with some force, and you will be convinced that some cultures, like the earth, can never die. This is a dream worth having.

From The Colors of Night, by N. Scott Momaday

4. RED

There was a man who had got possession of a powerful medicine. And by means of this medicine he made a woman out of sumac leaves and lived with her for a time. Her eyes flashed, and her skin shone like pipestone. But the man abused her, and so his medicine failed. The woman was caught up in a whirlwind and blown apart. Then nothing was left of her but a thousand withered leaves scattered in the plain.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|