Too many lost lives, suicides, and clueless gamers…

I am in graduate level coursework currently, attending a California State University. I am a candidate for a Master of Science degree in Reading and Literacy. I will become a specialist, an expert at knowing what it takes for someone to read, but not only read, rather: to become fully literate.ladyofshalott

By the time kids leave high school they are supposed to be fully literate. Most do not feel that way, but know something is missing. Maybe they can read, maybe they cannot. Maybe they can barely read, enough to finish up a botched understanding of an assignment–just as long as the instructor instructs them through it completely, or a friend helps with the assignment. But there is still something missing. So they go to community college, because they aren’t sure what to do next.

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So they take a community college assessment test, and find out they are not as graduate as they thought, but still “gradual.” Being literate does not mean simply that you can read, and not even simply that you understand your reading because there are different levels of understanding as well as knowing (epistemology).41x7o+EX8VL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_

This is where I come in. Most “teachers” want to teach reading to beginners, because they are challenged by the idea of a Tabula Rasa, or a yet unused brain muscle, and they believe they will make it come to life. There is some truth to that,  however–something happens along the road through K-12. It’s called overload. Students get so much thrown at them, that by the time they are able to sort it out, their brain has seized.

I want to help those kids in college that are trying to find a way through the maze of their own mind, and see some value to all the turning leaves of knowledge winding blissfully around their head, but unable to be caught by them.

Eventually I will get my degree perhaps, to add to my Masters degree in Education, my Bachelor Degree in English, and my life degree in the making of a human being after having been taught not to recognize myself in any context… or at least that is what I was taught; not by word, and not by deed so much as by complete and utter neglect. Yes, that is what is often learned in school from Kinder, to graduation: you are naught; it is the “stuff,” the minutia of teaching methods, approaches, strategies, and so on and so forth, that was the goal, and the teachers were so busy fulfilling those standards, they forgot that school was all about making kids WANT to and learn HOW to learn; not fill their head with empty rhetoric. I don’t want to blame the school system singly, for more than anyone it has to do with the child’s first nurture: parents. Parents don’t tell the truth to themselves, when they know they need to do more for their children but get caught up in the minutia of financial competition with neighbors, friends and family, while kids strut around not knowing what the heck is going on…

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And so they do whatever they can to stick around for a while … well, some of them…

I hadn’t planned on becoming a reading expert. All I wanted in life was to teach English Literature, to facilitate the themes, the lessons of life given in a beautiful turn of phrases, words of magic, the metaphors of love, the pains of loss and how life works for many authors as well as their characters, to enrich young people, so they could go out in the world and see with new eyes–some spirituality along with intellect. But that is not what the school system does, any longer. They do not teach a young person how to value themselves because they do not value them; they do not teach young people to respect oneself, because they do not respect them.

You cannot put young people–or any people for that matter– in rooms like cattle, with one cattle prodder and expect them to feel good about the multitude of grain they are being overfilled with.images

So I decided to get on the other side of the aesthetic and become a damage-control-helper. Yes, damage-control, because the damage is already done by the time they graduate from high school. Most teachers really don’t want to deal with those students, unless of course they are the cream of the crop, economically untouched by adversity.

So I decided someone needs to get to those young people: going to work, going to war, going to parenthood, going to jail, going to hospitals, going to all sorts of places, still wondering: “what was that all about?”

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If one is neglected enough, one will not be able to respond coherently in any situation, and will even be considered outrageous, moronic, nerdy, expendable, wasted, many of the names one can think of when thinking of someone who stands in the corner with eyes darting to and fro, attempting to be invisible, or risk becoming the all-encompassing clown via innate cluelessness.

When that someone grows up to be what the “normal” world calls “an adult,” they usually find some niche in which to hide. Be it music, reading, drinking/drugs, eating, promiscuity, perversions, seclusive, anything that will keep the distance between the one and the oneself, as well as distance from everyone else. Sometimes that person can even become a professional student of not only academia, but of life, yet never understanding like the “What’s it all about, Alfie?” movie of the 60s. That was probably the first real time in our country’s life where we began to question everything not just for the many but for ourselves, so the schools got busy and bombarded kids’ brains, so as they keep from knowing themselves to well. Well, I hope  you know by now, some of this blog is just my rantings and ravings, but it’s true to some extent, so I wanted to get that piece of paper the system insists one must have in order to enter the gates of hell–anywhere in the country; hospitals, schools, rehabilitation centers, etc.

So I am well equipped: I have my real estate broker’s license, and my minister’s license, and soon will have two master’s degrees instead of one, and probably next the Ph.D., but who’s paying attention? I just want to be useful to some who have been having a difficult time growing up… take it from me… I was one, too.Why-People-Commit-Suicide   It does not have to end that way, we can work on skills in reading, writing, life….. especially…. life….

A Review of Joy Harjo’s Native Perspective in “She Had Some Horses”

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Lydia Nolan

November 18, 1998

She Had Some Horses

By Joy Harjo

New York: Thunder’s Press, 1983

 

Other Books Written by Joy Harjo:

  • Reinventing the Enemy’s Language:

      Contemporary Native Women’s Writing of North America

  • In Mad Love and War (Wesleyan Poetry)

  • Secrets from the Center of the World (Sun Tracks, V17)

  • The Woman Who Fell from the Sky: Poems

  • The Last Song

  • What Moon Drove Me to Do This

My knowledge about the author, Joy Harjo, is not vast. What I do know is that she is about my age, she was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1951, and she attended high school at the Institute of American Indian Arts. She received her BA from the University of New Mexico and her M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers Workshop. She is a professor of Native American Literature and Creative Writing, and teaches at the Institute of American Indian Arts and Arizona State University. She is on the Board of Directors for the National Association of Third World Writers, and is on the Policy Panel of the National Endowment for the Arts. She is a prolific poet, and she is very talented. What Harjo and I have in common is love for language and communication, and love for people, especially people who are oppressed.

Harjo is currently (1998) working on a screenplay, and also on a new poetry collection. She writes as one who is deeply wounded about the history of her people, and their current plight as well, and she has something to say about it, and probably always will.

Joy Harjo’s book She Had Some Horses, is not really a story in the traditional sense, nor can it be neatly categorized as a metaphor of some abstract altruism. It is a poetry book, but it tells a story, it tells many stories that fit into a theme of sorrow that the Native American people have carried in their own bodies and souls. Thus, the stories she told to me carved images into my heart as deeply as the blood that throbs within it. The poems are thematic, and there are numerous themes, not particularly in any linear fashion, but randomly. She speaks through the poems as though she were having a cup of coffee with the reader. She remembers certain visions of her past with people she knew, loved, and lost, and then, tells the reader of the insight she gained from it all. She does not say this in exact words, but one knows that she has come to understand many things about life, by these experiences she has woven into poetic structure.

One of her themes is that of death, and it is prevalent in her work, perhaps because it is prevalent in her people, and she has firsthand knowledge of that fact. Thus, she speaks of sorrow. There is for some, sorrow that comes with life. For others, they may “think” they accomplish release from death. But, death defined as a way to deal with, or not deal with, the burden of being who one is, and to whom, and for whom one is responsible, is another kind of death. In addition, under overwhelming circumstances, making it hard to cope with such responsibility, it is hard to judge whether one is right or wrong within the context of one’s own personal situation. Two poems were especially poignant as to this theme.

In “The Woman Hanging From the Thirteenth Floor Window” Harjo speaks of a woman who, I believe, is about to commit suicide. She makes images that are contrastive, much like the choice the woman has between life and death, to which she is pointing our understanding. She creates a realistic image for us, of “a swirl of birds over the woman’s head. Then she gives us the two images of choice, saying,  “They could be a halo, or a storm of glass waiting to crush her.” Therefore, she implies that the outcome could be good or bad.

It can be good, in that it “could be a halo,” or bad, in that it is “glass waiting to crush her.” Throughout the poem, she makes these contrastive images, along with her own insight, “She thinks she will be free.” She goes through the poem, talking about the woman’s life, her many children, her youth, her current living situation in “the Indian side of town.” She makes a point to let us know that the woman is in the middle of deciding one way or another. Even if it were not literal suicide, though it may very well be, it is a definite metaphor for suicide. She must choose to live in the white world hungry and poor, barely living and caring for her children, or just giving herself over to not caring anymore, thus, no longer living. She would give up the responsibilities, or she dies to end them. However, Harjo’s haunting words leave us thinking, “She thinks she will be free.” She may be talking about not so much her personal freedom, but a mistake of defining freedom in giving up.

In “Drowning Horses” the author takes us into her long distance conversation with a friend who seems to have given up literally. “She says she is going to kill herself. I am a thousand miles away. Listening.” The intensity of the silence of the author seemed to scream in accentuation, as she “listens” to the other person talking. Even the reader hears the woman’s voice. She begins to speak the “Indian” way, symbolizing phone wire sounds as “an ocean”, and talking of the weapons that are used, like “a restaurant that wouldn’t serve her, / the thinnest laughter, another drink.” Near the end of her poem she begins to identify with the woman on the telephone as she calls herself “another mirror, another running horse.” One can see the image of a beautiful wild animal desperately trying to run from those who would round it up, and domesticate it to what is properly their own. The end is chilling as she finishes the call, not by hanging up, but “I tell her, “Yes. Yes. / We ride out for breath over the distance. / Night air approaches, the galloping other-life. / No sound. No sound. The chilling silence in my head after reading the words created a deep sea of sorrow in me, for the woman I would never know. However, Joy Harjo knew, if only in a poem. More than likely, she knew many like her.

Another theme was that of love, or the desire to have love. It may be defined in some poems, as someone sleeping there tonight, or “ice horses, horses/ who entered through your head, / and then your heart, / your beaten heart.” Still, there are those poems that are apprised of both of these themes, interwoven, like pain and joy, as it comes in life. Love and death seem to be powerfully portrayed more than anything else. Joy Harjo is telling us something very deep. She is telling us of a pain many cannot understand. I do. It is not easy to live “beaten.” One thinks of a wolf that has lost a battle to a stronger, greater wolf. The loser must leave the pack and scrounge around for any kind of living it can find, but never with the pack, because it is the loser, and it is the outsider. It no longer has say for its mate or pups; they stay with the pack…they want to eat. This is the sense one gets in reading this book of poems. Yet, she writes beautifully. Structurally, they are of no special rhythm we might be accustomed to in the poetry of English Renaissance, or even early American poetry. There is rhythm nonetheless. The meter is unique, as a conversation is unique, with stops and movement just as one would be speaking. Therefore, she writes poetry, but it communicates to the reader much like that of an oral representation.

I had a difficult time with the woman who told the writer she was going to kill herself. My inclination would be to tell her no. The author tells her “yes. Yes.” That was the most difficult thing for me to accept. I decided from this poem that the author has a different view of death and afterlife than I have, thus, I cannot tell her she is wrong; but it would be wrong for me. Thus, our love may be defined in different ways, or at least, we may see different boundaries in loving and being loved, and we may have different perspectives of what is living. As in my own life, I have experienced some tragic things. I do not believe, as much as anyone may want to convince me, that the Native American Indian has suffered more than anyone else has in the world, including me. Pain is relative. One loses a child grotesquely, and begins a major organization in spite of the loss, to help others. Another loses a child, becomes an alcoholic, and gives up on life, or happiness, but dies in bitterness. I do believe that pain, sorrow is subjective, and all of us describe our experiences as to how we saw, or felt them, though they may be identical situations. Perhaps our experiences are not identical, but our pain and suffering may be, according to each one’s own subjective view. My pain has been great, to another one of my family members, they may say I’m exaggerating my sorrows, but its my level of sensitivity, and I must live with my own personality. Sometimes, it is hard to make people understand, but my love for others is greater than my need to give up, so I stick around. One never knows whose life may need one’s touch, without even sometimes knowing it. My view of the afterlife is somewhat different than the author’s, I think, but interestingly, she makes some statements that make me believe that the way of a “running horse” is not the right way. Thus, Harjo has reached heights in her own life, some Indians may think, that are unbelievable, and even perhaps impossible. However, she has done it, just as I am doing it. Just as many other people have gone on to live and achieve, even in their pain and sorrows, even in their handicaps. They go on even as a maimed or wounded horse, beautiful, but less graceful than when it was wild, free-spirited, and youthful. I plan to read all of her books. I like her poems, I am eager to understand her, and the feelings she carries for her people, as I carry for mine.

I would like to know what horses stand for to Harjo’s mind, and some of her symbols. In western culture, we have literary symbols, archetypes, and so forth. I would like to understand the Native American Indian’s symbols. I wanted to know what kind of qualities or characteristics an animal or the earth has, that Indians might claim as their own. How do they choose their name, for example, “Two Crows,” as one who is a scavenger, but doubly so, or “Sitting Bull,” as one who is stubborn but strong, and so forth. I know this to be true of Bible characters, for example “Paul”, from “Saul”, because “Paul” means “Little spirit,” or one who needs God’s spirit to guide him because he has a small spirit without God.

I do not know why so much as I just know that I love Native Americans. They are beautiful, creative, and rugged (my identity exactly!) I have been known to love many people, and much too much, though I do not believe you can ever love too much. Perhaps, if I would be an Indian woman, my name would be “Two Doves.”

Check out some of her newer books:

“Crazy Brave” (2012),  and  “Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings” (2015).

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It’s Valentine’s Month!

Wow. We are really swimming downstream through this year, 2016, already!

It’s February, just 31 days ago, it was January, New Year 2016, and now we are heading through our next month of winter, just before spring in April, coming soon!

I wish I could remember how to use a recorder as I used to do before blog spaces came into being. I could record my thoughts on an issue, then go home and write about it in my journal (we used to call that “diary,” even!) But now! I have to learn how to use a phone that is smarter than I am, and that is not a good feeling.

I used to be called “creative,” now anyone can be creative, given the right app., tool, or computer program. That is not a good thing for those of us who are naturally born creative, but usually not very mechanical, or technical, if you want to split hairs.

Nonetheless, this is the world we live in, and I live in it, too.

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Therefore, let me presume I am up to date and I am saavy about all this techno-stuff, and let me present a challenge to you.

I have over 1500 readers here. I am “pinging” you the old fashion way: can you all send me a comment?

I need to find out if there is something other than what I’m doing to make all this hocus pocus work, because evidently, it’s NOT working as I have heard from ONE PERSON so far

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Yes, a very provocative, saavy salesman, or

wh06s4 Okay, I’m dreaming…

But getting back to the focus of my note here, let’s see if anyone is listening or if those readers are all made up (by the company who makes this site).

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I will give a free copy of my first book to the FIRST person that lets me know YOU HEAR ME AND ARE RESPONDING TO MY CALL.

For comment, give you name and email address and I will present to you publicly, my first book, as soon as it arrives in published fashion, this year.

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This, you might wonder, is NOT my Valentine’s Message, that is still to come. This is just a “SHOUT OUT” to make sure there really are people in the world of Author! Author!  I’ll be back!2014-02-09 23.33.58