N. Scott Momaday | Critical Review by Howard Meredith

This literature criticism consists of approximately 3 pages of analysis & critique of N. Scott Momaday.
This section contains 692 words
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Critical Review by Howard Meredith

SOURCE: A review of In the Presence of the Sun: Stories and Poems, 1961–1991, in World Literature Today, Vol. 67, No. 3, Summer, 1993, p. 680.

In the following positive review, Meredith argues that In the Presence of the Sun fully achieves Momaday's purpose, which is to "express my spirit fairly."

In the Presence of the Sun, a collection of poetry, stories, and visual-art pieces, presents a set of individual works that define Scott Momaday's style, from his early period and to more recent times, as well as his visual expression in still lifes and figure studies. Each of the works has individual traits, but there are elemental connections among them. Included are familiar early poems from volumes such as Gourd Dancer and Angle of Geese, a series of poems focusing on Billy the Kid; new poems; a reprint of In the Presence of the Sun: A Gathering of Shields, originally published as a signed, limited letterpress edition by the Rydal Press earlier in 1992. Illustrations include acrylics, graphite sketches, monoprints, etchings, pen-and-ink drawings, and watercolors. Momaday writes: "The poems and stories, the drawings here, express my spirit fairly, I believe. If you look closely into these pages, it is possible to catch a glimpse of me in my original being."

Momaday brings a significant vision of his ethnic foundations and period style in American poetry and art and expresses the healing relations within the universe. He flowers in the fire of the spirit of an ancient culture. As a poet, he brings a sense of order in the form of a special case to the creative chaos of the present. In the works of art gathered here, connections are made within Anglo-American cultural imperatives, yet with a sense of reference that speaks of Native American concerns for all living beings.

The collection is excellent, although it does not pretend to possess any sense of symmetry. Dream images recur throughout but are ever more powerfully expressed in the selection of stories and drawings entitled "In the Presence of the Sun: A Gathering of Shields." The expression of dreams, visions, and natural events finds unity in the power of the special medicine of these words. Momaday explains through allegory, to those who are prepared to listen, the nature of medicine power and the miracle of the Kiowa mind-set, which extends beyond the dualism and the adversarial nature of Western dialogue to provide for personal understanding and empathy within the unity of creation. He indicates a path through which the reader can move from the individual mind and spirit to become one with the universal mind and spirit.

Momaday on Oral and Written Traditions:

[It] seems to me that the things that inform oral tradition, the very best oral tradition, are the things that ought to inform the best literature, the best of the written tradition. In other words I think that the two traditions are probably more apparently different than they are really different, one from the other. At some point they converge, and they share, I think, the same qualities. And the storyteller in the oral tradition is doing—or maybe better to put it the other way round—the writer who is writing a novel, say, is engaged in pretty much the same activity, it seems to me, as the storyteller who is telling a story in the oral tradition. There are differences, of course, but in the main, I think, they are probably closer together than we realize.

N. Scott Momaday, in an interview with Laura Coltelli in her Winged Words: American Indian Writers Speak, 1990.

Three contemporary poems form a fitting conclusion to the volume. "December 29, 1890: Wounded Knee Creek" is movement within images, including black-and-white photo reflections of the Ghost Dance bringing the spirits of all into communion. "Fort Sill: Set-angia" relates the continuing presence of no less a person than Sitting Bear. "At Risk" points to the power within images, memory, and words that require exacting performance.

In images and words the collection suggests the presence of a particular man. His art, in turn, provides a glimpse of the depths of existence that extends cultural perspectives to understand better the living universe.

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This section contains 692 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Howard Meredith
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