Tasunka Witko/Crazy Horse stories Sandoz Heard

“Crazy Horse laughed, a sound they had seldom heard this last while. “I am no white man,” he said. “They are the only people who make rules for others and say:  ‘If you stay on one side of this line it is peace but if you go on the other side I will kill you all.’ There is still plenty of room, my friend. Camp where you wish.”

If you’re searching for a biography to dig into in then I suggest  ye seek and find a copy of Crazy Horse, The Strange Man of the Oglalas by Mari Sandoz. It’s an oldie but a damn goodie if there ever was one.  Several other writers have taken runs at rendering the life and times  of the Lakota warrior.  Kingsley Bray’s work is quite fine, but for my money, Mari Sandoz’s effort delivers the real goods. Why? Because she and Eleanor Hinman gathered information directly from people who actually knew Crazy Horse—He Dog, Little Killer, Short Bull, Red Feather.  No amount of digging through papers can substitute for that sort of personal engagement with living sources with memories to share, the ability to answer questions, and provide details. Though by her own accounting, Sandoz also did a lot of digging through various paper piles.  What’s perhaps most telling was her awareness of the expressive yet difficult to wield power of language and writing to convey the ‘unknown’ to others–an awareness that prompted her to state, “…I have used the simplest words possible, hoping by idiom and figures and the underlying  rhythm pattern to say some of the things of the Indian for which there are no white-man words, suggest something of his inner nature, something of his relationship to the earth and the sky and all that is between.”  Some things can not be translated because there are no ‘equals’ for concepts, for values, for insights and connections from one language and culture to another which has no such concepts, values, insights or connections. Sandoz realized this essential ‘lack’ or obstacle and did her best to overcome it in order to try to get at the heart of a man, of a people, of a culture under intense assault to become something entirely foreign to their natures.  That’s a tough task for any writer working outside their own mental landscape. Sandoz took it on of her own accord and the fact that the resulting writing has the power to break through time and place and cultural barriers places the work in a class by itself.

Art for Art’s Sake — Why do we write?

So do we create to serve our egos? Do we create to serve the abstract concept of ART? Do we create to satisfy the abyss of the appetite of the marketplace? Why do we create ART in all its strange and wonderful styles and forms? Why do we compose music? Why are poems written to lovers far away? Why are songs sent out across time and place to woe women—and men? What end is served by the creative process? Is this an indulgence in the fantasy of being ‘god-like’? Are we conveying the creative energy of the infinite universe? Why do we create?

Is it all Art for Art’s sake when all is said and done? Or is it just another way to go insane while  trying to survive in a world that simultaneously touts great art while telling emerging artists they’re quite mad for thinking of living for creating art because there’s no profit in it? 

If art has no real place or power  or worth in mainstream cultures then why have artists of all genres been imprisoned and executed around the world and throughout history? How terrifying can a poet like Osip Mandelstam possibly be? What is the threat embodied in the Russian masterpiece of social and political satire, The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakow? What is the power of Picasso’s La Gurenica?  And what does the audience learn from Timberlake Wertenbaker’s play, “Our Country’s Good”? Many people read the diary of a young girl, a girl who probably gave not a fig for who might read her words in regard to ‘art’ or anything else. Yet, Anne Frank’s ‘words’ —written without intention of informing or influencing anyone–express a need to create as evidenced by their existence.

Why do we write?

Why do we blog?

tv guides lost ‘love’

When I was a kid in the seventies there were tv guides to be found inside the confines of the Sunday newspaper.  Someone actually had the job of writing blurbs for each and every movie scheduled for the entire week. This could be rather mundane over the long haul but occassionally someone would get creative with one genre or another and then the guide would become very interesting indeed. “Werewolves devour humans for late night snacks.”  I wondered if there was some very frustrated novelist imprisoned in a dark windowless room forced to construct blurbs for movies scripted by writers not even half as talented as he–or she.  Once the entire movie guide section went absolutely beserck to the tune of “Indian fighters, Boom! BOOM! Chase Indians, Boom! BOOM!” “Police chase robbers BOOM! Boom!” “Voyer watches man murder wife through window, KNIFE! SPLAT! OOPS, SHE DEAD!” “LOVE Story, boy meets girl, girl gets cancer, girl dies, boy sad, boy gets over it. BOOM BOOM that!”

And I fell instantly in love with this particular art of word play and the invisible, uncredited penner of the television guide’s movie blurb section. Their performance was never repeated, even though it had me rolling on the carpet laughing hysterically. I looked in vain through the succeeding weeks for an encore that never came. I hoped the writer had made their last stand against anonymity and skipped off to some desk looking out onto a vast sea of tree  branches for relief from typing the next sentence of their novel, poem stanza, or devastingly ironic satirical play. So I hoped. So I still hope. If the “Boom! Boom!” writer of tv guide infamy is out there, catch this, you had a fan even then.


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