Simon Ortiz’s Spiral Lands and Jaime de Angulo’s Old Time Stories
This chapter explains how pictographs work: unlike an alphabetical letter, which connects a sign to a sound, using sounds to build up words and abstract ideas, a pictograph does not connect to idea or sound. Rather, it connects a sign to a narrative or text existing off the page. This loosened relationship between a sign and its meaning creates a space for the imagination. Pictographic texts do not only record meanings: they also prompt the creation of new meanings for texts. In explaining such pictographic literacy, this chapter gives an overview of historical conceptions of pictography, especially in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. But it departs from that historiography by uniquely describing the poetics of pictography. In doing so, this chapter shows how such a poetics has been used by poet and anthropologist Jaime de Angulo and Acoma Pueblo poet Simon Ortiz to elicit environmental thinking (thinking off the page, in imaginative collaboration with nonhuman and environmental agents). In thus examining the way in which the poetics of pictography changes a sense of the world, this chapter explores the reconfiguration of such seemingly natural concepts as gender and race. It also examines the work of visual artist Joe Herrera.
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