After and Before the Lightning
Acoma Pueblo poet Ortiz spent a winter in South Dakota, teaching at Sinte Gleska College on the Rosebud Lakota Sioux Reservation. The bitter cold and driving snow of a prairie winter were a reality commanding his attention through its absolute challenge to survival and the meaning of survival.
Ortiz's way of dealing with the hard elements of winter was to write After and Before the Lightning, prose and verse poems that were his response to that long season between the thunderstorms of autumn and spring. "I needed a map of where I was and what I was doing in the cosmos," he writes. In these poems, which he regards as a book-length poetic work, he charts the vast spaces of prairie and time that often seem indistinguishable. As he faces the reality of winter on the South Dakota reservation, he also confronts the harsh political reality for its Native community and culture and for Indian people everywhere.
"Writing this poetry reconnected me to the wonder and awe of life," Ortiz states emphatically. Readers will feel the reality of that wonder and awe—and the cold of that South Dakota winter—through the gentle ferocity of his words.
"A significant contribution to our literature in general." —World Literature Today
"Ortiz is marvelously adept at capturing the moody stages of cabin fever, wonder for the endurance of the land, and the quiet humility of a semi-foreign culture." —Booklist
"The poetry of Simon Ortiz is wind, rain, light, and desert. He reminds us what we have lost, what we love, and what we must recover to see the world whole, even holy."
—Terry Tempest Williams
"A masterpiece, a symphony composed of poems of celebration and prayers for survival in America's prairie winter of the soul." —Leslie Marmon Silko