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Reach | Spring 2011

Features

Creative Writing

Shrouds of White Earth

Cover of Shrouds of White Earth

Gerald Vizenor

State University of New York Press, Albany, 2010 / This phenomenal little book is called a novel; it reads like a prose poem, and might be a fictionalized autobiography of an artistic spirit living in two cultures. There isn't a line in it that is unbeautiful. Perhaps it is a kind of psalm, a prayer reaching for truth wherever it might occur--in laments, praise, mystical experiences, in a faint story line from history. The protagonist is a 70-year-old American Indian artist. The setting is mostly Minnesota and the White Earth Reservation, but we also visit Paris. The subject is art, freedom of expression, and authenticity. The matter is mixed, in the way of magical realism, but Shrouds of White Earth admits even more variety: real people and fictional ones, animals, esthetics, mysticism, eros, morality, shaminism--all equally entitled occupants of the same world. -MP

Vizenor, B.A. '60, child development, is Distinguished Professor of American studies at the University of New Mexico and Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley. He previously taught in CLA's American studies program. He is a recipient of the American Book Award and the Sundance Festival's Film-in-the-Cities Award.


Dogfight, A Love Story

Cover of Dogfight, A Love Story

Matt Burgess

Doubleday, 2010 / Like a West Side Story set in 2001, Dogfight: A Love Story takes place in New York City against a backdrop of mixed ethnicities, and is driven by youth rivalries and a high-risk love affair. But while WSS was the dramatic vision of mature artists distantly fascinated by youth gangs of New York, DLS is by a 28-year-old who grew up, one might say, on location. The story unfolds over a weekend in Queens, during which 19-year-old Alfredo Batista, a small-time drug dealer, stages a welcome-home for his brother Tariq, newly released from prison. It's not a purely joyous event, however, since there is some question as to whether Alfredo figured in Tariq's arrest, and there is no question that he has made Tariq's girlfriend, Isabel, pregnant. WSS was tragic and romantic; Burgess's story is tragic as well, but also gritty, affectionate, and hopeful. He doesn't seem to think tragedy is unconditionally terminal; life goes on and humor happens. His characters are tender-tough and memorable, the plot fast and clever. Bets are on for when Dogfight becomes a movie. -MP

Burgess, M.F.A. '09, creative writing, reads from his book on Minnesota Public Radio.


The Wind Blows, The Ice Breaks: Poems of Loss and Renewal by Minnesota Poets

Cover of The Wind Blows, The Ice Breaks

Ted Bowman and Elizabeth Bourque Johnson, co-editors

Nodin Press, 2010 / The poems in this collection, by some of the crème de la crème of Minnesota poets past and present, reflect on losses from illness, disability, death, divorce, war, and domestic violence--as well as on the saving graces of healing, happiness, and the restoration of a whole life. Included are current and former English department faculty members Patricia Hampl, John Berryman, James Wright, Michael Dennis Browne, Madelon Sprengnether, and Ray Gonzalez, other well-known figures such as Bill Holm, Phebe Hanson, Deborah Keenan, Robert Bly, Wang Ping, Louise Erdrich, Thomas McGrath, and Joyce Sutphen, and still others published for the first time. -MP

Johnson, M.A. '92, Ph. D. '98, English, recently-retired lecturer in the English department, now teaches in the Office of Distance Learning. Bowman has taught at the U of M in family education.

March 26th, 2011
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