cover image After and Before the Lightning

After and Before the Lightning

Simon J. Ortiz, Author University of Arizona Press $36.95 (127p) ISBN 978-0-8165-1423-6

The newest volume in Arizona's Sun Tracks series of American Indian literature is a collection of poems and prose pieces by Acoma Indian poet Ortiz (Woven Stone). The book was written during a long South Dakota winter spent on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation. Ortiz comments on this often harsh encounter with nature in pieces that alternately reach for the ineffable and record the mundane. He notes in his preface, ``I felt like I was putting together a map of where I was in the cosmos.'' Like the weather, his words can be cool and crisp. There is a tendency to pass into coldness and abstraction, though a physical detail can surface as equally compelling (or more so). The key to Ortiz's work is the idea of process, which unites the worlds of thought and nature-the one a sequence of ideas, the other a series of moments. Process also accounts for his obsession with time, the link between ``lightyears'' and ``prairie'': ``These eons and vastness make sense./ Lightyears and prairie cosmos know.'' (Sept.)