“Native American Literary Festival”

It’s troubling enough to read a translated book. One constantly wonders if the translator has captured the rhythms of the original text, its word choice, or just sought to get the story across as clearly (and unspecifically) as possible. So many things don’t translate. Poet and editor Simon J. Ortiz brings up a related dilemma in the recently published book of essays Speaking for the Generations: Native Writers on Writing: that Native American writers battle inside their own heads for story translations. Resenting English and grieving for native tongues now lost or spoken by only a handful of elders splits a writer’s mind. As Ortiz states, the 1994 United Nations declaration that the decade be dedicated to the recognition of indigenous peoples of the world has helped the current vogue for Native American literature. However, the admiration comes laced with the unattractive qualities of romanticism and envy. D.C.’s own “Native American Literary Festival” will explore such problems, kicking off Tuesday with a ceremonial blessing, followed by poetry and prose readings by Ortiz and local poet and political activist Suzan Shown Harjo. On Wednesday, the “Tribute to Native American Women” features readings by poets Gloria Bird, Luci Tapahoso, and Elizabeth Woody. Thursday is “Growing Up With Mixed Heritage,” with readings by Cheryl Savageau, Edgar Gabriel Silex, and Ines Hernandez-Avila. Ortiz, Bird, and Woody return on Friday to discuss “Using the English Language: The Native American Writer’s Dilemma,” a conversation that stems from Speaking for the Generations. The festivities begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, May 5-8, at the Arts Club of Washington. 2017 I St. NW. Free. (202) 331-7282. (Ginger Eckert)