Monday, April 18, 2016

Monday Muse: New Oregon Poet Laureate

The power of language in poetry, song, story and legacy
has kept Oregon's communities vibrant. The literature of this
land is the sound of multiple hearts and the breath of many
listened to. . . It is an honor to be Oregon's poet to serve
our state's communities. . . and reflect upon their strength.
~ Elizabeth Woody*

Native American Elizabeth Woody, a member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs (Navajo), is Oregon's eighth Poet Laureate. Successor to Peter Sears, Woody officially takes up her two-year post on April 27.

For information about the history and responsibilities of the position, see my post about Lawson Fusao Inada (2006-2010). Described as a vivid storyteller, Woody, a lecturer and educator, will give up to 20 poetry readings throughout the state during her term of service.

* * * *  *

And it is through my own story and stories of my family 
and my circle of people that I become whole. . . From
each telling we . . . become strengthened, released from
a sense of isolation. We [feed] ourselves with these stories.**

Elizabeth Woody is a poet, fiction writer, essayist, and visual artist. Her poetry collections are Luminaries of the Humble (University of Arizona Press, Sun Tracks Series, 1994), Seven Hands, Seven Hearts: Prose and Poetry (Eighth Mountain Press, 1994), which includes illustrations by Jaune Quick-to-See; and her debut book Hand into Stone (Contact II Publications, 1988; out of print), awarded the American Book Award in 1990. (The latter, with new prose and poetry, was reprinted as Seven Hands, Seven Hearts.)

A spoken word CD, Conversion: root, stone, flesh and water (2004), features Woody's more recent, unpublished poems. (See Woody's Hanksville Storytellers page for information.)

Woody contributed the introduction to E.K. Caldwell's Dreaming the Dawn: Conversations with Native Artists and Activists (University of Nebraska Press, 1999). She is co-author of Harry Fonseca Earth Wind and Fire (Wheelright Museum of the American Indian, 1996; out of print). With Gloria Bird, Woody co-authored the introduction to Dancing on the Rim of the World (University of Arizona Press, 1990).

Among the books Woody has illustrated is Sherman Alexi's Old Shirts and New Skins (American Indian Studies, 1993; see GoogleBooks). She exhibits her artwork regionally and nationally.

Place, both specific and regional, is central to Woody's poetry, as is family. In Luminaries of the Humble, Woody draws on her experiences in the Pacific Northwest, her understanding of the natural environment, misinterpretations of Native culture, contemporary issues such as domestic violence and alcoholism, homelessness and crime, and personal history, including her development as a poet. Reviewer Judy Elsley describes Woody as a practitioner of "ethnopoetics, writing a bridge of sympathy and understanding between her own people and the non-native American reader."

Following are excerpts from two of Woody's poems:

[. . .]
Inside taste is a dark definition of light.
The drum is the garment for speech.
Intoxicated on the breath. No breath on collapsing.
Breath in explosion.
Hands roll away like aspen leaves, all color,
still, only captured light. [. . .]
~ from "Horizon" (Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, Vol. 23, No. 2, 2002)

Sister, asleep for three days, I notice small broken
glass sparkling near your bedroom door at home,
placed there by the cat. The glass matches your beads
and wills you back to the movement of thread and
needles. [. . .]
~ from "Coma" (Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, Vol. 23, No. 2, 2002)

A number of Woody's poems, including "Coma" and "Flight", are in Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies (Vol. 23, No. 2, 2002; see excerpts above) and three, "Girlfriends", "Perfidy", and "Straight and Clear", can be found in Ploughshares (Spring 1994). Woody's poem "Cedar and Salmon" is included in Readings in the Poetry Garden (West Hollywood Lannan, 1994), along with several poems by Sherman Alexie.

Woody's poetry as well as essays appear in many anthologies, including Reinventing the Enemy's Language: Contemporary Native Women's Writings of North America (W.W. Norton, 1998), edited by Gloria Bird and Joy Harjo; Speaking for the Generations: Native Writers on Writing (University of Arizona Press, 1997), edited by Simon J. Ortiz; Returning the Gift: Poetry and Prose from the First North American Native Writers' Festival (University of Arizona Press, 1994), and Songs from This Earth on Turtle's Back: Contemporary American Indian Poetry (The Greenfield Review Press, 1983). (View anthologies list.) An interview with Woody is included in Norma C. Wilson's The Nature of Native American Poetry (University of New Mexico Press, 2000).

Among the honors that Woody has received are the William Stafford Memorial Award for Poetry (Pacific Northwest Bookseller's Association, 1995), a "Medicine Pathways for the Future" fellowship from the Kellogg Foundation (via American Indian Ambassadors Program of Americans for Indian Opportunity, 1993), and a J.T. Stewart Award and Fellowship (Hedgebrook, 1997). In addition, she was awarded a residency by San Francisco's Intersection for the Arts (1997). A finalist for a 1995 Oregon Book Award, Woody has been a featured poet at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival. She is a founding member of Northwest Native American Writers Association and a member of the board of the women's writing retreat Soapstone.


Photo Credit: Oregon Humanities and Oregon Cultural Trust

Poetry Excerpts © Elizabeth Woody

* Quoted from "Governor Brown Names Elizabeth Woody Oregon's Eighth Poet Laureate", News Release, Office of the Governor/Oregon Cultural Trust, March 24, 2016

** Quoted from Seven Hands, Seven Hearts

"Elizabeth Woody Named Oregon Poet Laureate", Oregon Humanities, March 24, 2016

Matthew Korfhage, "Elizabeth Woody Named Eighth Poet Laureate of Oregon", Willamette Week, March 24, 2016

Elizabeth Woody Profiles Online: Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest (University of Washington), Hanksville Storytellers, Native American Authors, Native Nations Institute, Oregon Poetric VoicesThe Poetry FoundationWikipedia (Also see Craig A. Doherty's and Katherine M. Doherty's Plateau Indians in the Twentieth Century on GoogleBooks.)

Elizabeth Woody Poetry Online: "The Sister", "Old Person", and "Mirror", All at University of Arizona Press; "Girlfriends", "Home and the Homeless", "Illumination", and "My Brother", All at Poetry Foundation; "Conversion" and "Translation of Blood Quantum", Both at Hanksville Storytellers; "Coma" and "Flight" at Project Muse; "Old Person" at Poetry Society of America; "Horizon" (Excerpt) at Project Muse; "Home and the Homeless", "Deer Dancer" , "Hawk Man", "The Veil", "The Girlfriends", "Be Careful or You Might Burn", "Maria, at Quarter to Eight in the Morning", "The Signals from Sleep", "Three Measures of Alcohol", "Recovery", "Waterways Endeavor to Translate Silence from Currents", "Wish-xam", "Warm Springs River", "The Invisible Dress", "The English in the Daughter of a Wasco/Sahaptin Woman, Spoken in the Absence of Her Mother's True Language", Complete or Excerpts, All in Luminaries of the Humble at GoogleBooks 

Read Elizabeth Woody's poems "Flight", "Walk" (excerpt), and "June in Red Willow and Cottonwoods" in Tea and Bannock Stories: First Nations Community of Poetic Voices, Simon Fraser University (pdf).

Listen to Woody's readings from Mountain Writers Series (2010) and Summer Fishtrap (1990) at Oregon Poetic Voices.

Pdf of Seven Hands, Seven Hearts

Luminaries of the Humble on GoogleBooks

Elizabeth Woody Prose Online: "Recalling Celilo" at Salmon Nation

Judy Elsley, Review of Luminaries of the Humble, Weber Studies, Weber State University

Elizabeth Woody on FaceBook

Video: Portland State MFA - Elizabeth Woody on YouTube (2011) (The video was made by William Stafford's son Kim Stafford.)

In the video below from Mimbres Fever Productions, Woody reads from Luminaries of the Humble and Seven Hands, Seven Hearts:

1 comment:

drew said...

I'm a proud poet and proud Oregonian -- happy about this new appointment.

Thanks for the comprehensive introduction, Maureen.