Edward Dorn – The Shoshoneans: The People of the Basin-Plateau (1966)


“The poet Edward Dorn (1929-1999) was born in Illinois during the Great Depression, a fact that would mark him forever. Struggling through poverty as a child and into adulthood, Dorn was intellectually hungry and dissatisfied with the status quo. His poetry and essays deal with the particular realities of North American identity, culture, and history, pushing poetic language into the darkest corners of experience. Dorn spent his life writing and teaching as he moved from town to town, particularly as a younger poet looking for work. Often considered a poet of the American West, Dorn also lived in England for several years during the latter half of the 1960s; he would eventually settle in Colorado, teaching at the University of Colorado, Boulder. The Shoshoneans was the first work of Edward Dorn’s that I fell in love with. When I came across his stunning poem about his own family’s struggles, ‘On the Debt My Mother Owed Sears Roebuck,’ it sent me on the way into an entirely new poetics and a love affair with Dorn’s words and ideas that still engulfs me. When I began looking for his work, The Shoshoneans: The People of the Basin-Plateau, the genre-breaking 1966 account of traveling through Shoshone lands with photographer Leroy Lucas had long been out of print, and I struggled to find even a used copy. When I finally did, it was an old library hardcover with no dust jacket, fraying, yellowed, and on the verge of falling apart (and expensive!). I read this work voraciously several times through, moved by the beauty of Dorn’s words, the beauty of Lucas’s photographs, and the sharp, unsentimental and complex ideas and observations put forth in the text. In the newly reprinted edition of The Shoshoneans published by University of New Mexico Press last year, Simon J. Ortiz places the book firmly within the mid-1960s culture of Vietnam War resistance. Ortiz’s foreword sets the tone for thinking about this important book and its engagement with war in all its myriad forms in the context of North American culture and history. …”
The Long View of North American History
Google: The Shoshoneans: The People of the Basin-Plateau, Expanded Edition
amazon: The Shoshoneans: The People of the Basin-Plateau

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