Saturday, September 15, 2012


Although rock art is not often thought of as a subject for poetry and creative literature, there is no reason that the subject we love should not also inspire creative efforts in literature. In my own small way I have attempted to write essays on various aspects of the subject for many years. To this end I want to share with you a poem written by someone with particular insight on rock art as seen from his heritage, N. Scott Momaday. A biographer of Momaday's recently wrote:
 "Navarre Scott Momaday was born in Lawton, Oklahoma and spent the first year of his life at his grandparents' home on the Kiowa Indian reservation, where his father was born and raised. When he was one year old, Scott's parents moved to Arizona. His father was a painter. His mother, who is of English and Cherokee descent, became an author of children's books. Both worked as teachers on Indian reservations when Scott was growing up, and the boy was exposed not only to the Kiowa traditions of his father's family but to the Navajo, Apache and Pueblo Indian cultures of the Southwest. Momaday early developed an interest in literature, especially poetry."

"To read Momaday’s poems from the last forty years is to understand that his focus on Kiowa traditions and other American Indian myths is further evidence of his spectacular formal accomplishments. His early syllabic verse, his sonnets, and his mastery of iambic pentameter are echoed in more recent work, and prose poetry has been part of his oeuvre from the beginning. The new work includes the elegies and meditations on mortality - but it also includes light verse and sprightly translations of Kiowa songs."


Lascaux Auroch.

For we have seen the animals
That linger in primordial tar,
Parade in step and intervals
That mark millennia, an arc

Of time beyond the reckoning
Whose hand has traced these living lines?
Whose mind has ventured past the thing
That mere mortality confines?

Horse, bison, auroch, bear, and deer,
Convene forever in the night,
Their ghosts, in old communion here,
Emerge in stark, forgotten light.

Or has their spirit thrived unseen,
Bled into earth and rock? –
In attitudes austere, serene,
Evincing myth, story, epoch."

Excerpted from Again the Far Morning by N. Scott Momaday, University of New Mexico Press. Reprinted in Ancient Meditations, New Mexico magazine, August, 2011, p. 37.

I cannot imagine saying it any better than that.

1 comment:

  1. Peter, I found this poem elsewhere tonight and have been looking for something to add to a report on rock art... which brought me here and to this poem again!
    However, line two ends with "dark" in the version I have, which correctly and carefully rhymes with arc...