There Goes More to a Book Than the Words on a Page THE PEOPlE SpEAk: A COllECTiON of WRiTiNG by SOUTH CAROLiNA NATiVE AMERiCANS iN POETRy, PROSE, ESSAyS, ANd INTERViEWS EdiTEd by Will MOREAU GOINS PREfACE by MARiJO MOORE PHOENiX PUbliSHERs (COlUMbiA, SOUTH CAROliNA) ISBN 0-9725589-O-X 127 PAGES, $16 (pApERbACk)
There goes more to a book than the words on the pages, these days. I have just finished reading The People Speak and urge anyone touched by or part of the struggle to repair the damage described by Black Elk (Neihardt, 1932/1979) as "...the nation's hoop is broken and scattered. There is no center any longer, and the sacred tree is dead" to buy the book. For surely, so long as there is a smear of the people's blood left in a single vein, the tree is not quite dead; there is a hope. Even without the complete loop there are still connections, for all are connected as Chief Seattle remarked in his seminal speech.
The truth is that the blood runs strong, and this book is a manifestation of that, and a clear spirit call. So much is written and believed (and is fact, in part) of a drunken and defeated and demoralised Native American population, we are in danger of being caused to overlook there being a parallel story of success, of the maintenance of the way, and a good fight back. The fight back has taken longer than the so-called Ouster fight (Ouster disaster more like) which, as we all know, only took the time a man might use to eat his dinner. The event on that hot summer's day was a great victory for The People, with the irony of being in turn an immediate harbinger of catastrophe. But back to the book under review, which, in a way, is a result of those times, is part of the link, is a manifestation of the mending of the hoop.
In this interesting book we hear the words and views of people as young as six, and the reported thoughts of 95-year-olds, and everything in between; we read clever poems and some not so clever; we catch the deep thoughts of wise people and the poems of all sorts. A weakness is that some of the poems appear to be rather rushed and could be judged as being self satisfied attempts at writing a poem. Craftsmanship is missing, but the spirit shines through. More about that later, for it is at this point I have to get the bad news out of the way.
Echo: there goes more to a book than the words on the pages, these days. One expects that a text's proofreader will get rid of irritating spelling mistakes and misuse (e.g., it's, meaning it is being used instead of its, without apostrophe, which denotes possession). This is pretty basic stuff for already published writers steering the book to print. There are also too many typographical errors with spaces between words like this which really throws the pleasure of the reader by layout distraction.
I also, though I much admire Dr. Goins, feel there is too much of his own work in the book. The material is perfectly fine but I would have liked to have seen a lot of single entries from the unpublished. And one final growl -there was a quotation in a section heading from Tolstoy and another from Ghandi which, frankly, were out of place and could have been replaced by one of the many whispers from the past from the real people: Black Elk, Red Cloud, etc. Though not South Carolinian, those heroes were closer to the geography and spirit of the thing than Delhi or St. Petersburg. That's got rid of the wounds. Now the smiles.
The section "OUR CHILDREN'S VOICES" (sic -why the small case 's'?) quotes Sitting Bull, "Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children"-and Stone Wurdemann, a seventh (?) generation, 9-year-old, member of the Catawaba Nation, is quoted, "I learned that things will tell you their story if you listen to them..." Wow! The old War Chief would have been proud... is proud.
The book has lots of touches like that locked away in the interstices of the pages. The People Speak is divided into unequal length sections: Unity and Individuality; Our Children's Voices; Pictures Tell Stories TOO; One South Carolina's Family Story; The Unbroken Circle family, Cultural Survival, Our Heritage; Political Perspectives, Philosophy & Issues; Eternally Spiritual, Ritual and the Sacred; STORIES, PROSE & INTERVIEWS. …