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Reservation English
Most American Indians, even though they are acculturated, have grown up close to living oral tradition, in places where secular stories and local gossip–and, in many instances, formal recitals of origin stories, trickster tales, war narratives, and the like–still remain an important part of family and community life. Contemporary western American Indian poetry continues that narrative tradition. Simon Ortiz, for instance, a full-blood whose family is deeply involved in the religious life of Acoma Pueblo, incorporates oral formulae and a strong sense of tale-teller and audience into some of his poetry, calling loving attention to the pleasures and importance of repetition and of "telling it right." He and others like Leslie Silko (Laguna), nila northSun (Shoshone-Chippewa), Ted Palmanteer (Colville), Carroll Arnett (Cherokee), and Marnie Walsh (Sioux) also make poetry out of community anecdote and gossip, often writing in a colloquial "Reservation English" rich in idiomatic vocabulary and speech rhythms. As in this short poem by Walsh, they display an unselfconscious ease with and respect for the speaking voice that too seldom graces dialect poetry:
we all went to town one day
went to the store
bought you new shoes
red high heels

ain't seen you since

Walsh's poem is the third selection for Kooser's American Life in Poetry column, so I suppose people all over the US are reading that poem right about now. (Funk soul brother.)
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