REACHING KEET SEEL: Ruin's Echo and the Anasazi by Reg Saner

REACHING KEET SEEL: Ruin's Echo and the Anasazi

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A journey into the homeland of the Pueblo peoples of the Southwest--and into the center of the New Age. Saner, a poet (Climbing Into the Roots, 1976, etc.) and creative writing professor at the University of Colorado, has clearly spent much time in the Four Comers region. What he has learned there seems to be a kind of vague ecumenism, strongly stressing the religious superiority of prehistoric Native American traditions (religious traditions that are, in fact, largely unknown to us) and ancient ways in general, and a gnawing guilt for what, as he writes of a Hopi beggar, ""my kind have inflicted on his kind."" In vignettes and brief prose-poemlike essays, Saner explores these sentiments, constantly looking for ""the other"" in storied desert places like Sedona, Keet Seel, and Chaco Canyon. He scores some nice points here and there, as when he ponders specimens of the modern ""idiot race""--the defacers of monuments and stones, those who fill highway signs with bulletholes. But too much of this book is unsurprising; its meditations on coyote choruses, rafting trips, and wanderings among thousand-year-old ruins are the stuff of countless other books, many of them far better. It doesn't help that Saner uses as foils for his observations the kind of people you meet at tourist traps--hippie wayfarers, bums, vendors--or that he seldom ventures into the difficult landscapes where, one presumes, true enlightenment occurs. Neither does it help that Saner is too given to little cotton-candy reveries. Celebrating the way in which Indian pottery seems powerfully maternal, he muses, ""Maybe that's why any potsherd I've ever wondered at under Southwestern sun has filled my body with an echo of the stillness I must've felt when yet inside my own mother."" Such passages make one's teeth hurt. Only for readers who like their deserts with a soft edge.

Pub Date: March 31st, 1998
Page count: 216pp
Publisher: Univ. of Utah