115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Earth Language and a Borderless Landscape in The World Is One Place: Native American Poets Visit the Middle East

Angela Mullis, Rutgers University

This paper explores the recently published anthology The World Is One Place: Native Poets Visit the Middle East, and considers the idea of a global history - a diverse set of life-stories of land and of people – beyond national boundaries.  Native poets anthologized here artfully blend voices and narrators into models of re-storying and what Choctaw writer LeAnne Howe terms "tribalographies"—creating a testimony of Native American historical and futuristic memory.

Proposal: 

Over the past several years, and particularly in the wake of the recent mass destruction in the Middle East, Native American writers have turned their attention to that region. Cherokee poet Diane Glancy and Choctaw writer LeAnne Howe both provide us with a lens to view the Middle East from a Native American perspective. In a newly published anthology The World Is One Place: Native Poets Visit the Middle East, we are asked to consider the idea of a global history, integrating genres and a diverse set of life-stories – of land and of people – beyond national boundaries. This paper will explore how a number of poems from this anthology (including selections by Glancy and Howe) illustrate Howe’s concept of “tribalography,” that is a tribal way of seeing, of writing a history that is committed to inclusiveness, “consensus” and “symbiosis.”

This anthology oscillates between various landscapes to highlight how the land and people are linked, both having suffered and survived the effects of colonialism. For example, Glacy bears witness to “older old” histories of the Middle East and how disconnected sites and experiences, whether in Turkey, Jordan, Afghanistan, Arizona, or New Mexico, meld into a story—a narrative forcing us to look at the grim realities, the “discontinuities” that arise “because of the conflicts and contradictions in the human heart.” She, along with other Native poets anthologized here, artfully blends voices and narrators into models of re-storying and tribalographies—creating a testimony of Native American historical and futuristic memory—and the inextricable link we have to each other regardless of our place of birth.