Friday, October 11, 2019

The Poetry of Mary Tallmountain

Cover of "There is No Word for Goodbye," a chapbook by Mary TallMountain, a 1981 issue of the Blue Cloud Quarterly
This Monday is Indigenous Peoples' Day here in the United States, a day that celebrates and honors Native American peoples, their histories, and their cultures. The holiday originally began in South Dakota thirty years ago this October and has been formally adopted by numerous towns and cities across the nation since then. This year, we're celebrating by promoting our issues of a South Dakota publication, The Blue Cloud Quarterly, that almost exclusively features poetry by Native American authors. The Blue Cloud Quarterly was published by the Benedictine Missionaries at Blue Cloud Abbey in Marvin, South Dakota, for over thirty years and primarily consists of poetry chapbooks by Native American authors. In fact, it was the first publication of its kind to do so, and at least one scholar has posited that the Quarterly had a significant influence on the resurgence of Native American literary production during the latter half of the 20th century.

Cover of "Continuum" chapbook by Mary TallMountain, the final issue of the Blue Cloud QuarterlyHere at Rauner, we have a run of issues from 1977 through the final issue in 1988. These chapbooks are an exciting opportunity to hear the indigenous people of North America speak about their experiences in their own words. One such poet was Mary Tallmountain, whose poetry fills the final issue of the Quarterly. She was born in Nulato, Alaska, in 1918, to the Athabascan tribe. At the age of six, Tallmountain was separated from her family and her people and taken to Oregon by an adoptive white family, where she was abused and molested by the head of the household and forbidden from speaking her own language. As an adult, she began writing with a passion and published numerous works that dealt with the themes of Native and Christian spirituality and the interconnectedness of nature.

Tallmountain died in 1994, but not before founding the Tenderloin Women Writers Workshop in 1987 that supported local women in their attempts to express themselves through the written word. To read some of Mary's words, and learn more about her experiences and those of many other Native American poets, come to Rauner and ask to see Rare PS509 .I5 B59.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Butchering a Tree

Tree cutting diagramWe just picked up a nice guide for timber merchants from 1823. It contains everything you need to know to go into the timber business--the qualities of different types of wood; how much lumber of different types you can expect to get out of a tree of a certain diameter; a history of the use of wood in building; and a section on the "principle pieces of timber used to build a seventy-four gun ship of the line."

Tree cutting diagram
But what struck us most about the book was the hand-colored lithographs illustrating the cuts you can get from a tree. They look like those butchering guides you see for hogs and cattle, but in this case the tenderloin is the "keel piece."

Tree cutting diagram
To see the Timber Merchant's Guide, ask for Rare SD557.G9 1823.