Linda Hogan (writer)

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Linda K. Hogan (born July 16, 1947) is a poet, storyteller, academic, playwright, novelist, environmentalist and writer of short stories. Hogan is a recipient of the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry. She lives in Tishomingo, Oklahoma.

Linda Hogan in 2014


Interview (2013)Edit

  • We live in a world of many intelligences. Human language isn't all that is spoken in the world around our lives. Other documented and studied languages exist in the animal world. They surround us, also, in the plant world, where trees have the ability to call helpful underground bacteria toward them from distances, to communicate with one another through hormonal and chemical means. Cedars and junipers even store moisture to release for hardwoods during times of drought. We are surrounded by voices intelligent and in need of respect.
  • I write to put words together in ways that express what can’t be said in the ordinary use of language, particularly the way a poem feels, goes not only through the mind, but through the heart and body, as well. With poetry, I’d like it to first bypass the mind and give off a particular feeling, then if someone wishes, they can return to it with their mind. I want it to be accessible, also, to every person and not just to other poets or people who have studied poetry.
  • Stories have the capacity to make change in ways that other forms of activism don’t...Sometimes I think of them as a form of activism, sometimes as an expression of love, or the meaningful humanity of our daily lives.
  • How absolutely amazing all the life forms and their origins.
  • Everything that happens in one country is carried away to others, through air, through ocean. Radioactivity shows up long distances away. Our plastics travel in the ocean to other continents. Now there is plastic sand, the ground-down drinking bottles of America, which have become the dead beaches on islands in the Pacific. These were once places the indigenous people depended on for food sources and which are now completely dead. We forget how small the planet has always been and it becomes smaller with each catastrophe. We also now have ways to communicate across and beneath oceans, to know what is happening not only to our embodied planet, but to people in other locations, attacks on innocent protesters, wars we might not have known existed, and that has allowed us to become more conscious humans on this earth, to know we have kin everywhere and the earth, as a living body, is one.
  • We can’t control the earth’s response to our actions, only our own behaviors.
  • All of the animals I have known enter into my writing, become it. They are inspiration, research, and also my love.
  • It is more about murder and theft, the true stories of what happened during the Oklahoma oil boom.
  • I always think of Lewis and Clark, their story. It is not really their story at all. It is the story of Sacajawea who knew the way, took them along, saved them from mishaps, kept them fed, negotiated their entry into different tribal territories. The story, really, is hers. And she was still just a girl. Yet, women have been omitted from Native histories and so little is found that it is an effort to find information, even for scholars. So I like to center stories that are also history, with women as integral forces within the story.
  • Whatever it is that people believe about the lives of writers only applies to writers who have great incomes, I believe.

The Woman Who Watches Over the World: A Native Memoir (2001)Edit

  • Mystery is part of each life, and maybe it is healthier to uphold it than to spend a lifetime in search of half-made answers. Still, as humans, we want truth. We are searchers. Our stories, our courthouses, our lives, contemporary anxieties and depressions are all searches full with this desire. Humans want truth the way water desires to be sea level and moves across the continent for the greater ocean. "Memory is a field full of psychological ruins," wrote French philosopher Gaston Bachelard. For some that may be true, but memory is also a field of healing that has the capacity to restore the world, not only for the one person who recollects, but for cultures as well. When a person says "I remember," all things are possible. (p 15)
  • there is a geography of the human spirit, common to all peoples. (p 16)
  • Worlds are made of lies and dreams (p 200)
  • There is always, to everything, a before and after. (p 201)
  • I feel the air as if I could move through it with my ancestors' wings. (p 202)
  • We live not only inside a body but within a story as well, and our story resides in the land as sure as the vision of Dorothea Lange's desperate, running horse. (p 204)
  • We feel it, long for them, without even knowing what it is that we feel and yearn toward. We try to replace what is lost with possessions, with belief, with false hope. Longing, as poet Ernesto Cardenal said, for something beyond what we want. (p 204)
  • we are a story, each of us, a bundle of stories (p 205)
  • We are, in part, the body of earth (p 206)
  • Nowadays, it seems we are always trying to match the world to ourselves instead of ourselves to it, the way it truly is. Yet human smallness is only too apparent. In such great universes as ours, we should try to match ourselves to the outside world (p 206)

Interview (1999)Edit

  • If someone is going to be a writer, they’ll be a writer no matter what they do. I don’t think I have any advice. I used to think I did, but if somebody loves to write they will be a writer.
  • It took men quite a while to have the courage to look at things differently.
  • I’m very concerned with human, animal, and plant survival, traditions that are ecologically sound, and indigenous knowledge systems, and how to convey these understandings of the world to a wide readership.
  • I see so many disappointing environmental writers who are not writing about the environment at all. They’re writing about themselves in the environment, and they often don’t understand the world they’re writing about. There are clearly writers who are more concerned with traveling around and checking everything out than they are with long-term survival of the habitats that they’re working in. In some ways, the writing I do is politically centered because it is about a world view that can’t be separated from the political
  • Don’t you think that civilization is a confusing word? It seems that it always implies Western civilization and certain kinds of behavior and ways of being in the world that are in conflict with the environment...That particular one needs to be rethought, especially if you look over the history of the European knowledge system and mind. One of the things I’m most interested in is talking about indigenous traditions and looking at the differences between the two. If you take a system of agriculture that was in place on this continent at the time of first contact and how well it was working, and then you compare it with the agriculture of Europe at that time, there’s simply no comparison. Something happened in Europe, in Western civilization, that created a breakdown of a healthy knowledge system and a healthy relationship with the rest of the world. I spend all of my time reading, writing, thinking about what it is that created people who thought they were civilized but really were the harshest and cruelest people in any time and any place from the beginning.
  • I feel that, as an Indian woman, it’s important to hold to our integrity about our relationships with all the other species, including plants, and that they not be endangered. They are part of our cultural heritage and part of our spiritual life and our well-being, in terms of keeping our tribal lands and ecosystems intact.
  • My characters actually create me instead of the other way around.
  • I find that my process usually isn’t that I’m full of intention. It’s usually that I’m just open, and something comes to visit and tells me the story and creates it.
  • I’m writing about Lozen, Geronimo’s female chief military strategist who was also the sister to Victorio...She was the reason they were able to stay away from the Americans and the Mexicans for so long. She was brilliant.
  • I feel like I owe the future to my children and grandchildren, that the work I do, I hope, will help sustain them in the future...My family’s important to me. I think you feel that even more when you’re an American Indian. You see your children, and you want them to know the tradition, to know the language to follow in some way, and yet, you still have to live in America. I think that’s my priority in my life. My work is all dedicated to those babies and children.

"Hearing Voices" in The Writer on Her Work, Volume 2 (1991)Edit

  • As an Indian woman, I come from a long history of people who have listened to the language of this continent, people who have known that corn grows with the songs and prayers of the people, that it has a story to tell, that the world is alive...This intuitive and common language is what I seek for my writing, work in touch with the mystery and force of life, work that speaks a few of the many voices around us...It is also poetry, this science, and I note how often scientific theories lead to the world of poetry and vision, theories telling us how atoms that were stars have been transformed into our living, breathing bodies. And in these theories, or maybe they should be called stories, we begin to understand how we are each many people, including the stars we once were, and how we are in essence the earth and the universe, how what we do travels clear around the earth and returns. In a single moment of our living, there is our ancestral and personal history, our future, even our deaths planted in us and already growing toward their fulfillment. The corn plants are there, and like all the rest we are forever merging our borders with theirs in the world collective. Our very lives might depend on this listening. In the Chernobyl nuclear accident, the wind told the story that was being suppressed by the people. It gave away the truth. It carried the story of danger to other countries. It was a poet, a prophet, a scientist. Sometimes, like the wind, poetry has its own laws speaking for the life of the planet. It is a language that wants to bring back together what the other words have torn apart. It is the language of life speaking through us about the sacredness of life.
  • How we have been pulled from the land! And how poetry has worked hard to set us free, uncage us, keep us from split tongues that mimic the voices of our captors. It returns us to our land. Poetry is a string of words that parades without a permit. It is a lockbox of words to put an ear to as we try to crack the safe of language, listening for the right combination, the treasure inside. It is life resonating. It is sometimes called Prayer, Soothsaying, Complaint, Invocation, Proclamation, Testimony, Witness. Writing is and does all these things. And like that parade, it is illegitimately insistent on going its own way, on being part of the miracle of life, telling the

story about what happened when we were cosmic dust, what it means to be stars listening to our human atoms.

  • A friend's father, watching the United States stage another revolution in another Third World country, said, "Why doesn't the government just feed people and then let the political chips fall where they may?" He was right. It was easy, obvious, even financially more reasonable to do that, to let democracy be chosen because it feeds hunger.
  • When I sit down at the desk, there are other women who are hungry, homeless. I don't want to forget that, that the world of matter is still there to be reckoned with. This writing is a form of freedom most other people do not have. So, when I write, I feel a responsibility, a commitment to other humans and to the animal and plant communities as well.
  • writing has changed me. And there is the powerful need we all have to tell a story, each of us with a piece of the whole pattern to complete. As Alice Walker says, We are all telling part of the same story, and as Sharon Olds has said, Every writer is a cell on the body politic of America.
  • Writing begins for me with survival, with life and with freeing life, saving life, speaking life. It is work that speaks what can't be easily said. It originates from a compelling desire to live and be alive. For me, it is sometimes the need to speak for other forms of life, to take the side of human life, even our sometimes frivolous living, and our grief-filled living, our joyous living, our violent living, busy living, our peaceful living. It is about possibility. It is based in the world of matter. I am interested in how something small turns into an image that is large and strong with resonance, where the ordinary becomes beautiful. I believe the divine, the magic, is here in the weeds at our feet, unacknowledged. What a world this is. Where else could water rise up to the sky, turn into snow crystals, magnificently brought together, fall from the sky all around us, pile up billions deep, and catch the small sparks of sunlight as they return again to water?

Interview in Survival This Way by Joseph Bruchac (1990)Edit

  • The poetry writing was very important to me. It was a way of trying to define who I was in an environment that felt foreign. I realize now that writing had everything to do with my life and my survival.
  • I discovered Kenneth Rexroth and I was really excited about him. It was the first contemporary poetry I read, and it was alive for me. It became a kind of model for how I wanted to write.
  • One life does not fit neatly into the other always. Creative work is a way to order it.
  • I search for the words that will speak the feelings inside my body and hope they touch those feelings in others. At the same time it is a celebration and sacred song given back to those of whom I speak, especially the animals who are made stronger by our acknowledgment of them.
  • The U.S. is organized socially and politically and economically in ways to keep people without vibrance or energy. To keep them working hard, thinking they will "make it" if they work harder, all at the expense of their real lives.
  • My own particular circumstance guaranteed that I'd never feel normal or manage to fit into mainstream life. Until a person knows that, from the mind, they feel crazy. Now I see there's no need to fit. You know, it's not that Indians are different from the dominant culture. We are the same with the same needs and loves and heartaches. It's just that most Indians know time and space well enough from the heart to know that life is for living. Because we are short in our span here and we are not the most significant of lives on earth. We share the planet with plants and animals equal to ourselves, and we are small in the universe. So the daily strivings fall into place. I feel that poetry is a process of uncovering our real knowledge. To manipulate the language merely via the intellect takes away the strength of the poem.
  • People believe they are secure and own their land, their houses. American history shows us that is never true. White people are shocked when their homes are taken away. It's unjust. But Indians have known that in their DNA. This government has broken over 300 treaties. Why believe them?
  • Most of the things that I did as a child and even as an older growing person were outdoors and were alone. Outside was my church, my place of vision and dreaming.
  • the land, is the oldest part of me and the wisest. The part that can survive. All of us Indian writers are historically a part of the whole body of our nations' histories and places, wherever we may do our writing, in New York City or at Rosebud.
  • That balance between the spiritual and the physical and the mental-a lot of people who become interested in the spiritual tradition become very silly. They go off so far there is no balance or no footing, and our feet are very important in spiritual life touching earth. We're here on earth with our bodies. We're not meant for outer space physically or spiritually. People who go into the mental can go off too far into the mental. I don't know many people who can go off too far into the physical (I don't mean athletically or sexually, I mean awareness of body), but the physical draws down the other two, the spiritual and the mental. I suppose physical labor is real good for that reason-chopping wood and doing whatever work you have to do in the world. It seems to me that is a very important aspect of tradition, to have that balance and keep and maintain it as much as you can. I think when people lose it is when they get caught up into the other things-when they lose that balance.
  • American people need to revise their ideas about spirituality. Spirituality ends up being very much like capitalism. It ends up being a force to control other people or to make yourself look good-to give yourself a position of power and integrity.
  • We are here to rejoice with our full selves. We didn't come here to deprive ourselves. We aren't made for deprivation. We came here with work to do-balancing the forces-and with great capacities for love and joy to fulfill with/in our full selves.
  • In tribal culture every person has their place and one who speaks more clearly with spirits than others is not a better person or is not in a higher position but simply performs one of many functions for the people. You and I have friends who do this daily and they make nothing of it. The woman who builds the fire is as important as the woman who guides the soul.
  • we don't have to do anything special to have contact with the spirit world. It's just natural if you stop and listen. Just there, always. Like your own heartbeat.
  • being "traditional" means you have a great deal of responsibility. Rather than people cutting themselves off from white communities to be traditional, the more I think about it in my life the more I have thought that breaking down those barriers is much more important than building them up. Any kind of racism at this point is not good for any people. And to become anti-white is a mistake. It's self-destructive for those who do. Talk about a balance of things-talk about head and heart or head and soul-somehow I think that merging the two cultures in a really healthy way, not as done in the past, might be an integration in the way that we were talking about earlier. Indians have already begun that process. Years ago. Now I see white people integrating in that way. Mostly women at this point.
  • All cruelty is needless. All fighting. Now do we need to build real estate in the Everglades or on migration lands or drill the earth? We have everything available to us for full, good lives, for peace. We must just simply step into it. Anyway, I just started thinking that being silent was in some way not being honest and that I did not want to be silent about the things that were very important and that our survival is very important. We've gone on-this progression is a very straight line progression into total destruction (Meridel LeSueur says this also), and we're just on the border now. Like the earth is square again and we stand on her edge. I guess I feel, if I'm going to be killed and if my family is going to be killed, at least I don't want to go quietly. I want to feel as if I have done something and not just passively accepted it.

Quotes about Linda HoganEdit

  • Her verses teach us how to live with dignity in a world bent on destruction."
  • Linda Hogan's work is rooted in truth and mystery.
  • one of our best writers.
  • Linda Hogan writes: "We Indian people who had inhabited the land had not been meant to survive and yet we did, some of us, carrying the souls of our ancestors, and now they speak through us. It was this that saved my life"
  • She is a compassionate witness who reminds us: 'When a person says, "I remember," all things are possible.
    • Brenda Peterson, blurb for The Woman Who Watches Over the World: A Native Memoir (2001)
  • Linda Hogan is one of the most important environmental writers of our time. In this troubled and dark world, I am grateful for the wisdom, light, and love found in these poems.
  • There is no one like Linda Hogan. I read her poetry to both calm and ignite my heart.

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