Visiting Poet, Orlando White: Bone Light

October 7, 2010 at 3:12 pm Leave a comment

The following is a post from Katherine Factor, our Poet in Residence and Interdisciplinary Arts faculty.

Kicking off our Creative Writing Reading Series Friday October 8th at 7:30 in the Parks gallery is Dine poet Orlando White.  The author of Bone Light, (published by Los Angeles based press, Red Hen Press) we welcome a young poet whose book offers a breakthrough look at language use.

I invited Orlando here because I have a strong interest in Native America, one I share with our Idyllwild Arts community and our summer program, so well known for participating in acts of preservation of native arts and crafts. To me, native literature at its best emphasizes value in native wisdom: cyclical thinking, simultaneous narratives/ varying points of view, confrontations with animism and nature, eco-feminism/a reverence for connection, a belief in experiment, a worldview that language is a creative act, and an inherent willingness to equalize space-time, dream and myth.

Such elements offer salient ideas and creative approaches for our students to encounter.  And there is no doubt that the ramification of forced relocation and genocide – resulting in the loss of a people, land, and their varying language systems – offers important comparisons to other sordid histories like the Holocaust or Rwanda. While some native poets approach these issues head-on, exploring issues of life, alcoholism, poverty, or use of Indian humor, Orlando’s work is powerful because it offers constellating approach to post-colonialism – to what it means to be “speaking” today in what poet Joy Harjo calls the enemy’s language – English.

Poems in Bone Light operate separately as forays into a living Alphabet, subtle questions about the act of writing are posited, and these poems are involved largely with strange directions and discovery. Each poem is a bone lighting a fragment of an idea, of language’s purpose, past and present and future. For instance, there are poems that present a love affair between the letter “i” and the letter “j” – the letters are characters!  Yet, together the poems speak to each other, revolve and repeat motifs, acting in tandem to both peel back layers and joint together a strong body of work.

So though Bone Light could be read as a native response to the disparities of language, it can also be read as a transcendent text.  In Orlando’s work, ultimately, I find a shared universal: Language is a double-edged sword (or is it pen?) that contains both inventive magic and difficulty in its attempts to insert itself or apprehend an idea or whole culture. Navigating that edge contains a certain excitement, one our Creative Writers have responded to so far, and we invite you to do the same.

More can be found on Orlando and his poems at:

Entry filed under: Creative Writing, special events. Tags: , , , , .

Parks Exhibition Center of Idyllwild Arts; Faculty Show Archeology and the History of Idyllwild Arts

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October 2010


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