Woody, Elizabeth (Ann) 1959-
WOODY, Elizabeth (Ann) 1959-
PERSONAL: Born December 26, 1959, in Ganado, AZ; daughter of Guy Woody and Charlotte Pitt (counselor). Ethnicity: "Native American." Education: Evergreen State College, B.A., 1991; attended Institute of American Indian Arts, 1980-1983. Hobbies and other interests: Beadwork, basketweaving, mixed media fine arts.
ADDRESSES: Office—Ecotrust, 1200 Northwest Front Ave., Portland, OR 97209.
CAREER: Institute of of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe, NM, program assistant.
MEMBER: Soapstone, Inc., Women Writer's Retreat (Board of Directors), Wordcraft Circle, Native American Mentor-Apprenticeship (mentor and Advisory Caucus member), Northwest Native American Writer's Association (cofounder).
AWARDS, HONORS: Brandywine Visiting Artists Fellowship, Brandywine Workshop, 1988; American Book Award, Before Columbus Foundation, for Hand into Stone, 1990; Traditional Arts Master/Apprenticeship Fellowship, Oregon Folk Arts Program, 1992-93; "Medicine Pathways for the Future" Fellowship/Kellogg Fellowship, American Indian Ambassadors Program, 1993; William Stafford Memorial Poetry Award, Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association, 1995; one of 80 artists nominated for Artist's Fellowship, Flintridge Foundation, 1996.
Hand into Stone (poetry), Contact II Press (New York, NY), 1988.
(Designer) Andrea Lerner, editor, Dancing on the Rim of the Earth: An Anthology of Contemporary Northwest Native American Writings, University of Arizona Press (Tucson, AZ), 1990.
Luminaries of the Humble (poetry), University of Arizona Press, 1994.
Seven Hands, Seven Hearts (prose and poetry), Eighth Mountain Press (Portland, OR), 1994.
(With others) Salmon Nation: People and Fish at the Edge (essays), original maps by Dorie Brownell, Edward C. Wolf and Seth Zuckerman, editors, Ecotrust (Portland, OR), 1999.
Work represented in anthologies, including The Songs from This Earth on Turtle's Back: Contemporary American Indian Poetry, edited by Joseph Bruchac, Greenfield Review Press (Greenfield Center, NY), 1983; The Clouds Threw This Light: Contemporary Native American Poetry, edited by Phillip Foss, Institute of American Indian Arts Press (Santa Fe, NM), 1983; Talking Leaves: Contemporary Native American Fiction, edited by Craig Lesley, Laurel (New York, NY), 1991; Durable Breath: Contemporary Native American Poetry, edited by John E. Smelcer and D. L. Birchfield, Salmon Run Press/American Indian Press (Anchorage, AK/San Francisco, CA), 1994; Oregon Literature Series, five volumes, University of Oregon Press (Corvallis, OR), 1994; Returning the Gift: Poetry and Prose from the First North American Native Writers Festival, University of Arizona Press, 1994.
Contributor of essays to books, including Between Species: Women and Animals (prose), Ballantine, 1997; Home Places: Contemporry Native American Writing from "Sun Tracks," University of Arizona Press, 1995; Reinventing the Enemies Language (prose), edited by Joy Horjo and Gloria Bird, W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 1996. Contributor of photographs to magazines, including Reflex. Illustrator of Old Shirts and New Skins, a collection of poems by Sherman Alexie, University of California Press, 1993.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Twentieth-Century Native American Art: Essays on History and Criticism, for Routledge; Elenco Racconti Raccolta Scrittrici Indianoamericane (poetry and fiction), for Giunti Gruppo Editoriale; Speaking For The Generations (essay), for University of Arizona Press; The Writer's Journal (essay), for Dell Publishing.
SIDELIGHTS: In a language foreign to her Navajo/Warm Springs/Wasco/Yakama ancestors, writer Elizabeth Woody has developed a strong but gentle voice that has found expression in poetry, short stories, and essays. With several books and contributions to numerous anthologies, she has explored topics that are firmly rooted in her tribal culture and history. Woody told CA: "I am pleased to be a part of an American literary tradition informed by a native aesthetic and legacy, honed by a specific environment with natural law for millennia. The stories, songs, artifacts are connected to a specific family and these legacies thrive in our communities. As a writer, I hope to never stop listening."
Woody's first book of poetry, Hand into Stone, was published in 1988 and received the American Book Award in 1990. The book's themes include changes to the Columbia River and the political crisis in tribal fishing rights; the dangers of nuclear energy and other environmental issues; the oppression of Native peoples; and the importance of the oral tradition.
The nature of Woody's work creates a tension that few writers have to deal with, the difficulty of writing in what is essentially a foreign language. Although Woody grew up speaking English, her maternal grandfather knew six native dialects. Notable Native Americans quoted Woody regarding this loss: "Eradication of the native languages through colonization . . . has impacted massive stores of knowledge. Losing the indigenous language meant that I had to become proficient in a language entirely different from that of my Sahaptin-Wasco Dine ancestors." However, Woody has made great strides in closing this language gap. Critic C. L. Rawlins wrote in the Bloomsbury Review, "English is hers, spoken and written, and she brings to it a supple unpredictability like the Irish poets who not only adopted the invader's tongue, but made it shiver and thunder and burn."
Woody's second book of poetry, Luminaries of the Humble, was published in 1994. Critical response identified her as a talented practitioner, whose work was both subtle and multifaceted. Elaine A. Jahner commented in Parabola, "Elizabeth Woody's Luminaries of the Humble shows an extraordinarily versatile poetic voice in the making. Each of the book's three sections . . . has an integrity and identity such that one is astonished that they are all the work of the same poet." Richard Dauenhauer praised Woody's thematic approach in World Literature Today. He described the book as "a collection of quiet and powerful poems exploring the integration of the specifics of one's life with the abstractions of eternity. . . . In poetry that reaches out and reaches back, that looks around, looks forward and back—and especially looks inward—the individual is called on to examine one's personal present and society, and one's own history and future."
Also published in 1994, Seven Hands, Seven Hearts, is a collection of Woody's poetry and prose. The book includes all of the work from Hand into Stone plus new poems, short fiction, and essays. The collection elicited this response from C. L. Rawlins: "Seven Hands, Seven Hearts is not only about building a durable self. There is also profound anger in it, as Woody wrestles with the invasion of her homeland: the changing of the her known place into one possessed by strangers. Yet the emotion in these passages is transparent, something like flame. And like flame, it is the source of both pain and power."
Woody credits her writing professors and colleagues at the Institute of American Indian Arts as important sources of support and inspiration. Through her connection with the Northwest Native American Writers Association and Wordcraft Circle, she assumed the role of mentor to the growing ranks of native writers. "While my work is beginning to reach a wider audience, I know that there are many aspiring native writers who have not found the opportunity. I hope to be able to provide encouragement and mentorship within my community at the Reservation of Warm Springs, Oregon, someday. In the Native Writer's community there are many individuals who have given me encouragement," Woody told CA. The poet also credits her grandmother and other Native American women who have taught her how to do beadwork and weave root bags with helping her find inspiration, as well as a sense of belonging, through the work and through their stories.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Bloomsbury Review, July-August,1995, p. 15.
Parabola, fall, 1995, pp. 92-96.
School Library Journal, July, 1993, p. 112.
World Literature Today, spring, 1995, p. 411.