Ray A. Young Bear
Ray A. Young Bear, Meskwaki (People of the Red Earth), was born in 1950 in Marshalltown, IA and raised on the Meskwaki
Tribal Settlement near Tama, IA, where he lives today with his wife, Stella and his nephew, Jesse. His great-great grandfather,
Maminwanike, as a Sacred Chieftan or Okima, purchased the settlement land in 1856, on ancestral lands along the Iowa River. This was done
after the federal government
forced the tribe to remove to Kansas. This tribally-owned land is not a
Ray and Stella are co-founders of a cultural
performance group, Black Eagle Child, that has toured the Midwest and The
Netherlands. Ray often
begins his readings with Meskwaki songs, accompanied by a hand drum and English translations.
Ray's first language is Meskwaki. He began seriously writing in English when in his early teens.
He first wrote by thinking in Meskwaki and then translating into English. While he no longer does this,
he still writes in the heightened, formal style of Meskwaki oratory. He does not write to reveal or to conceal,
but to correct the errors of misrepresentation that have occurred over generations.
Although his poetry was first published in 1968, he was introduced formally
as a tribal contributor in the South Dakota Review
American Indian II
by John Milton. In addition, Robert Bly, a Minnesota poet, in the role of mentor
recommended him to various literary magazines.
Ray attended Pomona College between 1969 and 1971.
(In 1971 he met James Welch
and Duane Niatum at a conference which had been organized
by Milton at the University of South Dakota.)
He has also attended the University of Iowa,
Grinnell College, Northern Iowa University and Iowa State University.
Ray has since taught creative writing and Native American literature at The Institute of American Indian Art (1984), Eastern Washington University (1987),
Meskwaki Indian Elementary School (1988-89), the University of Iowa (1989) and at Iowa
State University (1993 and 1998).
Ray's book covers show his wife, Stella's, elaborate bandolier-style beadwork. He uses the pronoun, we, in discussing his work.
His poems are not written as an extension
of his individual ego. They are collages of many voices, both interior and exterior. This
polyvocality is an expression of his view of human insignificance in the universe, sharing the universe
with all other beings.
Ray's writing has been published in journals such as the American Poetry
Review, Gettysburg Review, The Georgia Review,
The Kenyon Review, Michigan Quarterly Review,
Parnassus, Ploughshares, Solo,
Virginia Quarterly Review and Witness.
For readings/performances and media interviews, Ray may be contacted
though his agent:
Carlisle & Company
Attn: Christy Fletcher
24 East 64th Street
New York, NY 10021
For literature-related permissions and general correspondence, Ray can
be contacted at:
202 Red Earth Drive
Tama, Iowa 52339
The Word Collector, from the Des Moines Register, Sept. 2001.
What it Means to be a Meskwaki, a 1994 interview with Ray Young Bear.
Ray Young Bear entry on the Modern American Poetry website.
A short biography from
the Internet Public Library's
Native American Author's Project is available.
Writing available online
- A Season of Provocations and Other Ethnic Dreams
- Afterword to Black Eagle Child: The Facepaint Narratives
- The Mask of Four Indistinguishable Thunderstorms
- Our Bird Aegis
Ray A. Young Bear has received a creative writing grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1976. He has also received an honorary doctorate in letters from Luther
College, Decorah, Iowa in 1993 and the Ruth Suckow (Soo-koe) Award for
Remnants of the First Earth as an outstanding work of fiction
about Iowa in 1997.
Books by Ray A. Young Bear or containing his work
- The Rock Island Hiking Club, University of Iowa Press.
- The Invisible Musician : Poems, Holy Cow Press.
- Review by Janet McAdams from The American Indian Quarterly
- Winter of the Salamander : The Keeper of Importance, HarperCollins .
- Waiting to be Fed, 1975, Greywolf Press.
- The Tribal Chair Shall Conduct All Meetings, Grove/Atlantic.
- Remnants of the First Earth, Grove/Atlantic.
- Book Review by Elizabeth Cook-Lynn in Indian Country Today Magazine
- Book review in the New York Times by Richard E. Nicholls
- Black Eagle Child : The Facepaint Narratives, Grove/Atlantic.
- The Woodland Singers: Traditional Mesquakie Songs,
- Canyon Records, 1987.
Anthologies Containing Ray's Work
- Uncommon Wealth : An Anthology of Poetry in English,
- Neil Besner, Deborah Schnitzer, Alden Turner (Editors), Oxford Univ Press.
The Best American Poetry 1996, Adrienne Rich, David Lehman (Editors),
- Touchstone Books. (Hardcover)
Against Forgetting : Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness
- Carolyn Forche (Editor), W.W. Norton & Company.
- New Worlds of Literature : Writings from America's Many Cultures
- Jerome Beaty, J. Paul Hunter (Editors), W.W. Norton & Company.
& Beyond : Views from Native Americans,
- Southwest Parks &
- The Remembered Earth : An Anthology of
Contemporary Native American Literature
- by Geary Hobson (Editor), Univ of New Mexico Press
Anthology of 20th Century Native American Poetry
- by Duane Niatum
- Songs from This Earth on Turtle's Back : An Anthology of Poetry by American Indian Writers
- by Joseph Bruchac (Editor), Greenfield Review Press
- Words in the Blood : Contemporary Indian Writers of North and South America,
- Jamake Highwater (Editor), New American Library.
- Voices of
the Rainbow : Contemporary Poetry by Native Americans
- Kenneth Rosen (Editor), R.C. Gorman, Aaron Yava (Illustrator), Arcade Pub.
- Come To Power, Dick Lourie (Editor), Crossing Press.
Books Containing Interviews with Ray or Essays on His Work
- Native American Writers of the United States, (Dictionary of
Literary Biography, V. 175),
- Kenneth M. Roemer (Editor), Gale Research.
- Beyond Bounds : Cross-Cultural Essays on Anglo, American Indian, & Chicano Literature
- Robert Franklin Gish, Univ of New Mexico Press.
- New Voices in Native American Literary Criticism,
- Arnold Krupat (Editor), Smithsonian Inst Press.
- Coyote was here : essays on contemporary Native American literary and political mobilization
- Bo Scholer (Editor), Aarhus, Denmark : Seklos.
This Way : Interviews With American Indian Poets
- Joseph Bruchac III (Editor), (Sun Tracks Books, No 15) University of Arizona Press
- We, I, "Voice," and Voices: Reading Contemporary Native American Poetry,
- Janet McAdams, Studies in American Indian Literatures, 7(3), 7-16. Fall 1995.
- Ray A. Young Bear: Tribal History & Personal Vision, Gretchen M. Bataille
- Studies in American Indian Literatures, 5, 17-20, Summer 1993.
- The Reality of Dreamtime in Some Contemporary Native American Poetry, Anne Bromley,
- Greenfield Review, 11 (3 & 4), Winter/Spring 1984.
- Memory and Dream in the Poetry of Ray A. Young Bear, Robert F. Gish,
- Minority Voices, 2, 21-29, 1978.
- Mesquakie Singer: Listening to Ray A. Young Bear, Robert F. Gish,
- A: A Journal of Contemporary Literature, 4, 24-28, 1979.
- On First Reading Young Bear's Winter of the Salamander, Robert F. Gish,
- Studies in American Indian Literatures, 6, 10-15, 1982.
- Introduction, Richard Hugo,
- American Poetry Review, 2, 22, 1973.
- To Be There, No Authority to Anything: Ontological Desire & Cultural and Poetic Authority in the Poetry of Ray A. Young Bear, Robert Dale Parker,
- Arizona Quarterly: A Journal of American Literature, Culture and Theory, 50, 89-115, 1994.
- Outside the Arc of the poem: A Review of Ray Young Bear's Winter of the Salamander,
- James Ruppert,
Studies in American Indian Literatures, , 6-10, Summer 1982.
- Studies in American Indian Literatures Special Issue,
- 6, #3, 1982.
- I Tell You Now : Autobiographical Essays by Native American Writers
- by Brian Swann, Arnold Krupat, Brompton Books Corp.
- Approaching Poetry: Perspectives and Responses, Peter Schakel and Jack Ridl
- St. Martin's Press.
This is an "official" site in that this page was constructed with the
assistance and active collaboration of the poet, Ray A. Young Bear.
© 1998 - 2006 Ray A. Young Bear.
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