Library of Congress: National Book Festival Presents U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo

Elizabeth Cook-Lynn: Reading can restore us to our senses

Native Sun News Today Columnist

Lots of people ask me what I am reading and I always hate to answer because I am never reading what everybody else is reading. 

Yet, with nothing on the internet except the story about the moral degeneracy of conservatives in the senate like South Dakota’s John Thune, led by an extraordinarily vain and stupid leader of the free world we’ve inherited, my faith in reading anything at all is waning.

Poetry, I’ve found, is a good escape. 

Did you know that a friend of mine, Joy Harjo, a Creek raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, (of all places) has been named the nation’s Poet Laureate and plans to visit South Dakota one of these days to give a reading of her latest work.
One of the first poems I ever read of hers was “The Woman Who Fell from the Sky,” and the next was “What Moon Drove Me to This”, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

One of her very long poems about women starts like this:  “What’s a girl like you doing in a place like this,” and I know she is talking about me and herself and you and Anna Mae. History is always on her mind.

Elizabeth Cook-Lynn. Courtesy photo

Hey, if you want history, read a novel that’s been out for twenty years. It will take you away from the voice of the  recently acquitted scoundrel who swept down the elevator of the Trump Tower so long ago to go on Fox, tell more lies  and payback his enemies The Democrats!

The book I’m recommending is written by V. S. Naipaul (called Guerrillas), and it tells you more than you want to know about the cruelty of colonization on a Caribbean island.  It is NOT fiction, but it is a novel.   If that sounds like a contradiction, it probably is, but let me assure you this is a haunting story that reminds us and all the Indian villages we’ve ever known, that the world is not a safe place. And perhaps it has ever been.

Naipaul was born in Trinidad, the place where his father had emigrated from India.  Reading such stuff reminds me that the ravages of history are all around us and every now and then, just to keep in touch,   I drop in to a little restaurant called Everest.  My favorite dish is spinach and cheese and spice and is called: Saag Paneer That’s as close as I’ll ever get to India. 

What it has to offer is a sanctuary and an assurance of privacy.  Here, there is no effort to entertain you, but it does not distance itself.  Sometimes my daughter goes with me because she does not mind if I read while we eat.

The business of reading for some of us always promises to restore us to our senses. 

When I grew up at Fort Thompson I had a grandfather (who rarely spoke English and I never saw him read) who loaded up the kids in the family and neighborhood in his little red pick-up and on Saturdays drove us about 13-14 miles into the white man’s town called Chamberlain which sits dumbly along the Missouri River.  Farmers, kids, shoppers gathered. 

There was a library there and a city jail where my drinking Uncle Ted sometimes resided, so we visited him in the jail and then trooped upstairs to check out some books.        

Those were the best of times!


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