In the Pres­ence of the Sun: Sto­ries and Po­ems, 1961-1991 by N. Scott Mo­ma­day, Uni­ver­sity of New Mex­ico Press, 169 pages

Pasatiempo - - In Other Words - — Jill Batt­son

It’s un­clear why the Uni­ver­sity of New Mex­ico Press has de­cided to reis­sue N. Scott Mo­ma­day’s col­lec­tion, In the Pres­ence of the Sun, 17 years af­ter it was first pub­lished in hard­cover — and without an up­dated pref­ace. Mo­ma­day, born in 1934, is of Kiowa, Chero­kee, and English de­scent. In 1969, his first novel, House Made of Dawn, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fic­tion. In the Pres­ence of the Sun is di­vided into four sec­tions. The first, “Se­lected Po­ems,” is mostly con­cerned with Na­tive leg­ends. Some of this early work is un­even as the poet tries to find his voice. “The Strange and True Story of My Life With Billy the Kid” is a short, in­ter­est­ing mus­ing about the out­law’s imag­i­nary life in New Mex­ico. Mo­ma­day, in his role as the nar­ra­tor, fic­tion­al­izes a friend­ship with Billy and strives to por­tray him as a sen­si­tive and ro­man­tic man. “In the Pres­ence of the Sun: A Gath­er­ing of Shields” opens with an ex­pla­na­tion of the ori­gins and uses of Plains In­dian shields and is com­pleted by a col­lec­tion of prose po­ems part­nered with Mo­ma­day’s ink draw­ings. The fi­nal sec­tion, “New Po­ems,” shows off his love of the cou­plet form.

In the Pres­ence of the Sun is a good in­tro­duc­tion to Mo­ma­day’s writ­ing. Best of all are the art works pep­per­ing the book. Th­ese are as var­ied in style and medium as the po­ems them­selves.

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