By Claire Robertson
“She had some horses she loved / She had some horses she hated / These were the same horses” Native American poet Joy Harjo wrote in her poem “She Had Some Horses,” first published in 1983, speaking of women’s despair. Harjo is one of the indigenous poets whose work is on the senior reading list for Kenyon English majors, and the focus of the lecture this week by Professor Chadwick Allen of The Ohio State University .
Allen described his areas of study since his undergraduate years as “looking comparatively at trans-indigenous literatures” from English speaking nations such as New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the U.S. and many others. In his talk in Finn House this afternoon, Allen wants to focus specifically on the poetry of Harjo, a member of the Muscogee Nation tribe based in Oklahoma.
Associate Professor of English Ivonne Garc?a chose to invite Allen, who helped direct her dissertation, to speak to the seniors and thought that “it would be wonderful to open up this opportunity to the campus in general,” seeing as he is “one of the most recognized scholars in trans-indigenous literature.”
Overall, Garc?a wanted to offer all students ﾗ English major or not ﾗ exposure to a less prominent genre of poetry. “Because he’s so close by, having him is one of those really cool relationships we can establish,” Garc?a said.
In his 16 years at OSU, Allen has written two books and presented at Kenyon numerous times. His first book, Blood Narrative: Indigenous Identity in American Indian and Maori Literary and Activist Texts was published in 2002, and compares Native American and Maori works.
“I’ve done a lot of work with the Maori people indigenous to New Zealand,” said Allen, who wanted to make his first book purely comparative. In 2012, he wrote a second book, Trans-Indigenous: Methodologies for Global Native Literary Studies, which, he says, “explains methodologies for doing global indigenous comparative studies.” Both of Allen’s books involve discussion of Native American poetry and explanation on effective methods of study and interpretation. “I wanted to focus mainly on English-speaking settler nations, such as America, Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand and Canada,” Allen said, “and study the indigenous texts from those nations.”
Allen spoke warmly of his upcoming trip to the College. “I really enjoy coming to Kenyon, and many of the professors there are my close friends,” he said.
“[Allen] was the co-director of my dissertation and my graduate school advisor,” Garc?a said. “I admire him, and I model my own approach to my scholarship on his example.”
The honors seniors in Garc?a’s seminar are required to read a chapter from Blood Narrative, although “his talk will be on Harjo, [so] may not necessarily [touch] ﾅ on this chapter simply because he’s done so much other work,” Garc?a said. “He’s done work on a number of different texts and his expertise is varied.”
Using his expertise on Harjo’s poetry in tandem with his comparative abilities, Allen will talk about Native American poetry in the greater context of global indigenous literature.
“I want to talk about how one might approach American indigenous poetry in general, and then talking about approaches to Joy Harjo’s poetry specifically,” Allen said. “I may focus on one or two of her poems specifically, and have open discussion with the students about those poems.”
Allen’s talk will be today at 4:10 p.m. in the Cheever Room of Finn House. All students, especially English majors or those thinking about becoming English majors, are encouraged to attend to learn about Joy Harjo’s Native American poetry and other trans-indigenous literature.
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