Simon Ortiz
b. 1941

Linda Hogan
b. 1947

In our analyses of poets in the second half of this semester, we have spent a bit of time examining the poetic strategies employed by the poets. Do their lines rhyme? Do the poems have standard meter? Are the stanzas of equal length? What topics do the poets cover is their poems?

In your description in class of what a poem is and does, some of you said that poems seek to capture an image, or a feeling, isolated from another context. Often, however, a poem is not just a meditation on an image or vision; often poems do strive to tell stories (or actually, poets strive through their poems). Ortiz's poem "A Story of How a Wall Stands" and Hogan's "The New Apartment, Minneapolis" both endeavor to tell stories, but in different ways. Ortiz's poem is marked by a sense of motion and history and active story-telling, as a reader can experience through the words spoken by a father to his son. Hogan, however, observes a building and reads the building as evocative of culture (and cultural) history. Her poetic building is a container.

Hogan offers global, spiritual visions inspired by a building: "The house wants to fall down / the universe when earth turns" (lines 5-6). Diverse people are contained within the building. Contained in it is history.

Differently, Ortiz considers history, and permanence, as communicated by a wall in his home community. Ortiz's father, "who works with stone," tells his son a story of "how a wall stands," the title of the poem. The exterior appearance of the wall belies its durability and its deep, deep roots: " . . . Underneath / what looks like loose stone, / there is stone woven together" (lines 6-8). The reader may wonder how stone can be "woven," yet Ortiz's father communicates the careful way the stone and the deep earth unite to provide a lasting permanence for this wall at Acu. The father tells the story of a wall with his hands and, in his turn, Ortiz tells the story with words. This network sustains the community and by telling the story in his way, Ortiz helps to carry on this cultural tradition -- story-telling and memory. Ortiz the poet ultiamtely helps, in his own way, the wall -- and the stories -- to survive.

Hogan's poem is marked by its nearly standard two-line stanzas. One stanza has four lines: "I think of Indian people here before me / and how last spring white merchants hung an elder / on a meat hook and beat him; / he was one of the People" (lines 9-12). Obviouly, the content of this stanza has great importance to the poem. Other than the unique four-line length of this stanza, how is this stanza important to the poem and its story?