The 100th anniversary of Ishi’s death brings to mind the publication several years ago of a small book, Songs from a Yahi Bow – really a mini-anthology of writings on Ishi – assembled by Scott Ezell & including poems by Ezell, Yusef Komunyakaa, & Mike O’Connor, along with Thomas Merton’s 1968 essay “Ishi: A Meditation.” Ishi (the Yahi word means “man” or “human”) is well known through the writings of Theodora & Alfred L. Kroeber as the last known survivor of a small Indian community that suffered displacement & genocide during the final European conquest of America. That memory of course is a warning of dangers & holocausts to come, and much of Ezell’s work is concerned with a range of non-state cultures & a chronicling thereby of globally diverse crises & survivals.
Scott Ezell is a Pacific Rim poet & multi-genre artist with a background of independent study with the indigenous peoples of Taiwan, China, & Southeast Asia. He has published three volumes of poetry & over a dozen albums of original music, & has exhibited paintings in the US & internationally, as well as being involved in installation & performance art projects. His recent memoir, A Far Corner: Life and Art with the Open Circle Tribe (University of Nebraska Press), explores indigenous Taiwan through immersion in a nonconformist community of aboriginal musicians & artists. Since 2010 he has been working on a multi-volume poetry project, Zomia, about marginal landscapes & communities in the China-Burma-Laos border region. / Jerome Rothenberg, poemsandpoetics