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Greyhounding This America by Maurice Kenny
Poetry and dialog by the Mohawk author from his cross-country bus trips

"Maurice Kenny is achieving recognition as a major figure among American writers ... seen by some critics as one of the four or five significant Native American poets ... a distinctive voice, one shaped by the rhythms of Mohawk life and speech. --Joe Bruchac, Small Press Review

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"Greyhounding This America is uniquely Maurice Kenny. It is, however, the kind of book readers hope every poet would write. For not only do we find here a rich collection of Kenny's poems, the kind of poems which always stand strong on the page, but the reader is given autobiographical contexts for how each poem came to be written, what Kenny thinks it means or doesn't begin to know, plus some musings by him about the larger 'politics' of the times surrounding the poems. It is, as he calls it, 'poems and dialog' -- a great genre provided that the poems and their commentator are worth all the fuss, and Kenny is.

"What gives theme and focus to the poems is a bus trip Kenny took across the United States (actually several trips blending into one) in the late 1970s. Thus the autobiographical dimensions of the poem mix and merge with that greatest of all plots -- the journey. Kenny's journey is simultaneously a quest, an exploration, a vacation -- and work. He travels to see and to absorb impressions of landscapes and towns and flora and fauna, to meet people like intriguing Cherokee Marie, to 'hound' America out of her injustices and complacencies (especially those affecting Native peoples), and to read his poems when the occasion calls -- an occasion such as Greyhounding This America.

"One of the great tonalities of the book is Kenny's conversational 'reading' to the person turning the pages, and behind that, to his publisher, Larry Jackson, who recorded the dialogue. Behind them is the voice of that, by now, old radical: attorney William Kunstler.

"There is, admittedly, an old-hippie air to Greyhounding This America, a nostalgic attempt to revisit the country when the zeal of Sixties' leftist reform was rampant across the nation. Much of that time has been forgotten, so it's fitting for Kenny to share these poems and Kunstler to loom out of the past, all in the same year which marks the twentieth anniversary of Woodstock. And in 'Cyclist' Kenny offers his own tribute to one filmed icon of traveling those times, Easy Rider.

"Kenny reminds us that journeys once made must be repeated. Old ground becomes new ground for each new generation. This Kenny recognizes and accepts well enough. His hope held forth here, however, is that old ground not become the 'same' ground.

"Kenny's journeys, as his poems record, have been away from muddledom and depression, from heart attack and substance dependency, from callous and perennial attitudes toward the 'Indian problem' -- and toward sanity, health, and the celebration of ethnic and racial differences.

"In Kenny's voicings 'minorities' of all kinds gain an empathetic, albeit at times angered, champion. Something like a tattered, Mohawk Quixote, Kenny sallies forth to protest the stereotyping of American legends like Sacawajea (i.e., Sacagawea), Monahsetah (Custer's Cheyenne mistress), and their son, Yellow Swallow. And to lament the larger tragedies of Sand Creek and the more insidious one of Indian alcoholism and suicide.

"Whether poets are politicians and propagandists and 'legislators of the world' has never really been at issue. Kenny's poems and commentaries bring new acknowledgments of that fact. In a time when zeal for civil and human rights is languishing and the great American greyhound of fools seems careening toward contentment, it's no small comfort to know Kenny is around to hold forth the promise that the best might yet gain conviction, and the center just still might hold. --Robert F. Gish, University of Northern Iowa, Studies in American Indian Literatures, Series 2, Vol. 1, Nos. 3-4

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Greyhounding This America, ISBN 0-918606-07-1, $200.00

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