Nickel Eclipse: Iroquois Moon


Nickel Eclipse is a merging of personal and cultural history. Structured in part like the alternating colored beads on a wampum belt, patterns emerge from this exploration of contemporary life on an eastern Indian reservation and the sometimes tenuous persistence of a culture after centuries of survival within another, more dominant, culture. The poems, while highly personalized, reflect the tension of speakers surviving within-though never fully of-that larger culture, where ...

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Nickel Eclipse is a merging of personal and cultural history. Structured in part like the alternating colored beads on a wampum belt, patterns emerge from this exploration of contemporary life on an eastern Indian reservation and the sometimes tenuous persistence of a culture after centuries of survival within another, more dominant, culture. The poems, while highly personalized, reflect the tension of speakers surviving within-though never fully of-that larger culture, where lives are formed and meaning defined by their inherent separateness.
     Gansworth's paintings complement the poems, using the metaphor of the cycle of moons identified in the traditional Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy) culture's calendar. These paintings of the different lunar phases serve to organize the poems around a common image, breaking them into sections through the use of an eclipse. Additionally, the relationships indigenous communities have had with the United States-from thriving to near extinction to eventual re- emergence-are symbolized in the progression of that eclipse across the moon.
     Symbols common to the culture appear throughout the cycles: the Three Sisters (Corn, Beans, and Squash), Strawberries, and Green Corn, from the ceremonies named for them, and more consistently, wampum beads-within which Haudenosaunee culture is iconographically documented-appear in various incarnations, from the earliest shell groupings, through isolated shaped beads, small strings, and full- belt formations.

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Editorial Reviews

From The Critics
The year in Indian Country is divided into thirteen moons. Thirteen equal cycles of four weeks, twenty-eight days. The Sugar Moon, Fishing Moon, and the Very Cold Moon are examples denoting the seasons and their seasonal activities in the Iroquois calendar. It is in this framework that Gansworth has chosen to set the structure of his book of poems. The use of the eclipse metaphor represents the waxing and waning and waxing of Indian life in these post-contact times. The eclipse also denotes the (albeit temporary) advent of Western civilization over Indian culture. An Indian world that now includes elements of that Western contact, fragments of contemporary culture, and religion indelibly wedded to the modern Indian--coffee, cigarettes, and the movies being as Indian nowadays as sage, sweetgrass, and long hair on both men and women. The Indian-head nickel is a prime example; the dominant culture's currency emblazoned with an Indian profile and a buffalo. Things are forever and hopelessly mixed up, like a good batch of corn soup. The most Indian trait of all is to make-do with whatever is available. Strong, full of the humorous irony that Indian life is famous for, these poems present an uncommon slice of American life. In a poem entitled "Wine and Cheese" the chasm between White and Indian is navigated. "Mike and me / two reservation boys / in a plush, carpeted living room / (some friend of his from school) / need to be told / to use coasters (having thought they were / small decorative petrified / wood pieces) / when placing the crystal / long-stemmed wine goblets / on the glass-top coffee table." Through these poems Indians are seen as they are now, a living, changing, vital culture.Gansworth provides Indian time and war ponies, reservation magic and witchcraft, mystery and gritty cold walks to the outhouse. In a poem subject that is deeply and personally entrenched in Indian life, "On Meeting My Father in a Bar for the First Time," he makes something that is not at all humorous seem somehow inexplicably normal. "Sidling up to some / potentials, I nod / and smile that smile / which will buy me / at least a draft." His words echo a familiar chorus heard before in Indian Country. Gansworth offers an agile and fluent dance of language that keeps readers tight in the drum's circle. Meanwhile he debunks the mystical realm some well-meaning white people would like to relegate Indians to, "I don't know any Indians / who wear crystals / around their necks."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780870135644
  • Publisher: Michigan State University Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2000
  • Series: Native American Series
  • Pages: 187
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Eric Gansworth, an enrolled member of the Onondaga Nation, was born and raised at the Tuscarora Indian Nation in Western New York. He received a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts in English from Buffalo State College. He is Professor of English and holds a position of Writer in Residence at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York. His previous work includes a novel, Indian Summers, and a collection of poetry, Nickel Eclipse: Iroquois Moon; numerous Native literature anthologies include his poetry and fiction. Eric is also an active artist and has painted the cover illustrations for a number of his books.

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Table of Contents

Artist's Statement
Nickel Eclipse 1
Reservation Architects 7
The Children Shout at My Door But I Am Too Far Away to Hear 11
Just Lately 12
Requiem for the Little People 14
On the Lack of Needing My Indian Celebrity Sunglasses 16
The Final Cut 19
Reservations Required 21
Waiting for You at the Fountain Outside Lincoln Center 22
Her Little Red Cabin in the Mountains 24
Placemaps 26
War Pony 28
Vulnerability 33
My Sister's Back Yard 34
Mystic Powers (II) 36
The Reservation Knows Your Name as Well as I 37
Fishing with You 38
Trading Up 43
The Gifts of Our Fathers 45
Stinkpot 48
Baggage Claim 50
Skins at Dinner 52
Four Kitchens In the State 53
Iroquois Backboard Rebound Song (I) 59
Iroquois Backboard Rebound Song (II) 61
Iroquois Backboard Rebound Song (III) 62
My Hair Was Shorter Then 67
Fourteen Years Later I Still Want to Pick Up the Phone 68
Walking a Mile in His Wingtips 70
Immersion 73
Spanish Lessons 74
Song for a Snapping Turtle Rattle 83
Father and Sun 99
Transportation 101
Late August Sunsets 103
Night Music 104
A Few Good Jokes 105
The Annoyance of Evolution 113
On Meeting My Father in a Bar for the First Time 115
Toronto, More or Less, in Fifteen Years 117
These Nights I Know You Have Struck a Deal with My Mother 126
Home Work 127
Sirens 131
Mystic Powers (I) 138
Wine and Cheese 140
The Dirt on My Hands 142
Fall Leaves 144
Your Garden 145
Birthday Wishes 151
Black Leather Jacket 152
Traditional Blanket 156
The Favorite Recipe Card of Many a Reservation Woman or Sunday Brunch, Reservations 158
This Last Glass 163
Her Dreams 164
That Old Falseface 166
Outgrowing the Zeigler 168
Dream House 170
Passing Through Breaking Glass 172
Old Woman in a New Room 174
Over Coffee 179
Flight 180
Indian Religion at the Turn of the Century 181
The Old Moccasin Dance Is Sometimes Not Enough 182
It Goes Something Like This 184
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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2002

    Nickel Eclipse

    This is an amazing book. Was given to me by a friend, who'd gotten it as a gift and never read it (cuz he didn't like poetry). Two words: HIS LOSS. I couldn't put it down. It is a beautifully written - he is a poet I hope to see more of in the future. (Which is why I was on here looking for some more work).

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