Published on September 21, 2012 by Carol
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Native American poet Chrystos was born in 1946 in San Francisco and is part of a group classified by the Federal Government as “urban indians.” Remarkably self-educated and a brilliant artist as well as a writer, Chrystos, in Not Vanishing, sets out to dispel the common stereotypes, myths, and misconceptions that are associated with Native people as well as to educate her readers on how issues of oppression, class, gender, and colonialism have affected the Native American culture. Like her contemporaries, Joy Harjo and Simon Ortiz, Chrystos utters a poetic voice that is exceptionally powerfull and also remarkably distinctive. In her own words, Chrystos states, “My purpose is to make it as clear & as inescapably as possible, what the actual material conditions of out lives are” (i). This sort of overt, political agenda provides a stark, realistic insight into contemporary Native life and a unique approach that perhaps has only been paralled by Paula Gunn Allen. Dealing with such issues as poverty, homosexuality, drug addiction, and urban decadence, Chrystos creates an urgency in her poetry calling for a return to ritual and tribal spirituality that upheld the Native culture before the appearance of whites on American soil. There is also in her poetry, an expression of an existing economic oppression in which Native American workers desperately cling to infertile tribal lands while trying to make a living off of facsimiles of their own cultural and religious artifacts, thuscontributing to their own exploitation. Balancing off the direct, sometimes angry, fierce tone are the aesthetic poems which sharply contrast her political verse and reveal her depth and creativity as a versatile poet. Through these poems, Chrystos explores her own sensuality and yearning for spiritual renewal with nature imagery and deeply poignant moments of reflection.