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UGA Professor coedits first comprehensive Native Nations Poetry Anthology

Alan Flurry

UGA Eidson Chair of American Literature LeAnne Howe (Choctaw) has coedited WHEN THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD WAS SUBDUED, OUR SONGS CAME THROUGH: A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry, the first comprehensive collection of Native poetry.

The collection, which gathers work from the seventeenth century to the present, representing more than 160 poets from 91 indigenous nations, is available from W. W. Norton & Company August 25, 2020:

This landmark anthology celebrates the indigenous peoples of North America, the first poets of this country, whose literary traditions stretch back centuries. Opening with a blessing from Pulitzer Prize–winner N. Scott Momaday, the book contains powerful introductions from contributing editors who represent the five geographically organized sections. Each section begins with a poem from traditional oral literatures and closes with emerging poets, ranging from Eleazar, a seventeenth-century Native student at Harvard, to Jake Skeets, a young Diné poet born in 1991, and including renowned writers such as Luci Tapahanso, Natalie Diaz, Layli Long Soldier, and Ray Young Bear. When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through offers the extraordinary sweep of Native literature, without which no study of American poetry is complete.

Coeditors along with Professor Howe include two-term United States Poet Laureate Joy Harjo (Muscogee (Creek) Nation) and Poet Jennifer Elise Foerster (Muscogee (Creek) Nation). The anthology is organized according to the Muscogean directional path, starting in the East—the direction of beginning—then moving North and continuing West and South. Contributing editors introduce each of the five geographically organized sections.

“Working with dozens of Native poets for the past two years has been a great honor for me,” Professor Howe said.  “When I was re-reading Hawai’i Queen Lili’uokalani’s 1897 translation of the Kumulipo, a Hawaiian Creation chant included in this volume, I remember thinking -- we are working on a sacred text. We must take care with each step we take. I believe we did.”

UGA’s Creative Writing program and the AIR lecture series is set to host co-editor Jennifer Elise Foerster, on September 24.  Each year on the Autumnal Equinox, AIRlecture series, sponsored by LeAnne Howe, Eidson Distinguished Professor in American Literature, and the Creative Writing Program, bring Southeastern Native artists and scholars to campus from tribes that regard the Southeast as their original homelands. 

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