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Ray Young Bear’s works to be featured this April

March 10, 2019
Special to The Chronicle , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

In April 2019, Meskwaki poet, Ray Young Bear, will have his poetry and prose featured in two publications, The Iowa Review and Native Voices: Indigenous American Poetry, Craft and Conversations.

At 68 years of age, Young Bear, who has been writing creatively for half a century, writes, "It's a rarity for seven poems, including an essay, to be published during the same month. So there's lots of anticipation-all good. For my third appearance in The Iowa Review, two contemporary, English language poems are represented. For the Tupelo Press anthology, there are three contemporary poems and two Meskwaki word-songs, including a new essay on the influences of tribal culture and modern literature."

The essay, "The Summer of 1969: Children of Speakthunder," reflects upon a time when he attended a writer's workshop, in Bemidji, Minnesota. "I was just 18, but by then the process of seeing handwritten words morph to a page, in a book or magazine, was fascinating." It was at this workshop where Robert Bly, a teacher and poet, introduced Young Bear to the poetry of James Welch, a Native American.

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Ray Young Bear

"On a campus sidewalk one day," he shares in an essay excerpt, "Robert Bly stopped me. 'Young Bear, I've got some poems you should read.' He handed over a paperback called the New American Review. 'You can have it while you're here.' He then asked if I ever heard of James Welch. When I said no, I learned Welch was a Blackfeet from Montana, with several poems in the paperback.

"As Bly spoke in glowing terms, gesturing as if his hands could read, I scanned 'In my Lifetime.' Smitten by its structure and clarity, I became an instant fan. It was short of a divination. All of what I imagined, at 18, as being creatively possible in tribal-based poetry, if only I could mature quickly and write as well, had been done."

With six books published since 1980, Young Bear's latest collection, Manifestation Wolverine, received the American Book Award from The Before Columbus Foundation, in 2016. His bilingual poems and songs were published recently in The New Yorker, in 2015 and 2017. Young Bear lives with his family on the Meskwaki Settlement, near "Jean Seberg County," Iowa, where he's composing new fiction and word-songs.



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