Saturday, March 27, 2010

white quotation of the week (carter revard)

Carter Revard
(bio below)

Discovery of the New World

The creatures that we met this morning
marveled at our green skins
and scarlet eyes.
They lack antennae
and can’t be made to grasp
your proclamation that they are
our lawful food and prey and slaves,
nor can they seem to learn
their body-space is needed to materialize
our oxygen absorbers--
which they conceive are breathing
and thinking creatures whom they implore
at first as angels or (later) as devils
when they are being snuffed out
by an absorber swelling
into their space.
Their history bled from one this morning
while we were tasting his brain
in holographic rainbows
which we assembled into quite an interesting
set of legends--
that’s all it came to, though
the colors were quite lovely before we
poured them into our time;
the blue shift bleached away
meaningless circumstance and they would not fit
any of our truth-matrices--
there was, however,
a curious visual echo in their history
of our own coming to their earth;
a certain General Sherman
had said concerning a group of them
exactly what we were saying to you
about these creatures:
it is our destiny to asterize this planet,
and they will not be asterized,
so they must be wiped out.
We need their space and oxygen
which they do not know how to use,
yet they will not give up their gas unforced,
and we feel sure,
whatever our “agreements” made this morning,
we’ll have to kill them all:
the more we cook this orbit,
the fewer next time around.
We’ve finished burning all their crops
and killed their cattle.
They’ll have to come into our pens
and then we’ll get to study
the way our heart attacks and cancers spread among them,
since they seem not immune to these.
If we didn’t have this mission it might be sad
to see such helpless creatures die,
but never fear,
the riches of this place are ours
and worth whatever pain others may have to feel.
We’ll soon have it cleared
as in fact it is already, at the poles.
Then we will be safe, and rich, and happy here forever.

[original formatting appears here]

Carter Revard is part Osage on his father’s side. His Osage name (Nompehwahthe) was given to him in 1952 by his grandmother, Mrs. Josephine Jump, in 1952 in Pawhuska, the Agency town where he was born. He grew up in the Buck Creek Valley twenty miles east of Pawhuska, working in the hay and harvest fields, training greyhounds, and graduating from Buck Creek School (one room, eight grades). He graduated from Bartlesville College High and then a radio quiz scholarship to the University of Tulsa, where he took a B.A. in 1952. He then took a B.A. from Oxford University with the help of a Rhodes Scholarship, and then went on to a Ph.D. from Yale University in 1959. Revard has taught at Amherst College and Washington University in St. Louis, and as a Visiting Professor at the Universities of Tulsa and Oklahoma. His scholarly work has been in medieval English literature, linguistics, and American Indian literature. His poetry collections include Ponca War Dancers, Cowboys and Indians Christmas Shopping, An Eagle Nation, and How the Songs Come Down.


  1. I'm really looking forward to the arrival of those green skinned, red eyed aliens. It's the only way humans will ever realize that we're all of the same species.

  2. If he is Native this is not a white quotation of the week. Additionally, I know little about this person but it is important to honor the Native part in this person. It is unfair to label him solely as white and this is what I get from the title. All the issues in the Native community - with blood quantum and tribal politics - I just want to bring awareness to you regarding this here in this post. No other community of color has its existence as quantified as the Native community. We are 1% of the US population - our numbers are so small. So many of us are mixed. Annihilation was the goal of the colonizers but we remain even if we are mixed. Please be aware of these issues!

  3. Anishinaabekwe,

    Thank you for your comment. I am aware of these issues, as is the poet, whose poem is an allegory about precisely those issues -- the incredibly careless, callous, selfish treatment of Natives by white people. And that's what makes it a "white quotation" -- like some other "white quotation[s] of the week" here, which are by both white and non-white people, it's a quote about white people, not a quote by a white person. (Another example is this wonderful poem by Native poet Diane Burns.)

    I hope this clarifies things for you?

  4. Macon - Yes it does clarify it, thank you! :)

  5. I agree that the title is misleading. "White quote" to me means a quotation of a white person's words, not a quote about whiteness. I found calling a whole poem a "quote" a little odd too and had to go back and read it twice to try to figure out what you were talking about.

  6. How about just "quotation of the week"?

  7. For what it's worth, because of the title I assumed you were mocking him as some kind of "Pretendian" or something. Glad I was wrong.


Please see the "commenting guidelines" before submitting a comment.

hit counter code