Carter Revard, Osage poet and professor at the University of Washington, dies at 90 | Books


Carter Revard

Courtesy of Laurent Revard

As a child, Carter Revard lived on the Osage Reservation in Oklahoma, attending a one-room schoolhouse and spending summers playing with cousins ​​on a “horseless ranch” during the Depression.

Through a mixture of skill and perhaps luck, he won a quiz, which helped him on his way to college degrees, including studying at Oxford, England, and a professorship. at the University of Washington. There, although trained in medieval literature, the poet and teacher introduced courses in Native American culture and literature in the 1970s.

Carter Curtis Revard died on January 3, 2022 of kidney cancer at his home in college town. He was 90 years old.

“He was an amazing, incredible person and a great scholar,” said Carol Diaz-Granado, an anthropology research associate at the University of Washington. “We will miss him.”

She and her husband, Jim Duncan, who is also Osage, wrote books on Native American petroglyphs, sometimes consulting Revard. They traveled with him to powwows and private events. “He was a great friend to many Osages,” Duncan said.

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Revard was “in the opinion of most of Oklahoma’s foremost Native American poets,” according to the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture.

He was born, along with a twin sister, on March 25, 1931, in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, to McGuire Revard, identified as a mixed-blood Osage, and Thelma Louise Camp, who was white. In essays, Revard wrote that he never remembered seeing his father, but was indeed “born on the ground floor” even though he looked more like the Scottish-Irish side of his family.

His mother soon married an Osage man, Addison Jump, whose parents had “head rights” and shared in the oil profits of the reservation land. They lived on 80 acres of prairie with a modern house, but the oil money disappeared during the Depression.

Cousins, aunts and uncles visited often during those lean years, often staying with the family. Those were “tough days,” Revard’s cousin Dwain Camp, who is Ponca, said from his home in Oklahoma.

He remembers his cousin (nicknamed “Mike”) as hardworking and tenacious, earning money caring for racing greyhounds before walking miles to the one-room school in Buck Creek Valley . “He had a singular demeanor,” Camp said, and was “a real good guy and gentleman.”

After eighth grade, Revard graduated from Bartlesville College High School. His twin, Maxine, insisted on promoting him for a radio quiz contest, and his third place finish provided a scholarship to the University of Tulsa. He had promised his grandfather that he would go to college, becoming the first in his family to graduate from college.

After graduating in 1952, Revard was given his Osage name, Nompehwahthe (“Fear-Inspiring”), by his Osage grandmother, Josephine Jump. He also received a Rhodes Scholarship to attend Merton College, University of Oxford, where CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien were faculty. He then earned his doctorate in medieval literature at Yale University, where he met his future wife, Stella Hill Purce, a scholar from Milton.

Revard came to the University of Washington in 1961. He published research on medieval literature, and his expertise in linguistics led him to briefly collaborate with government efforts to put the English lexicon on computers in 1967.

“Carter is best known as a medievalist for his work on a manuscript that contains the collection of Middle English, Anglo-French and Latin lyrics known as the Harley Lyrics,” said Ruth Evans, English teacher at the ‘St. Louis University. Harley’s lyrics reference a manuscript in the British Library dated around 1340. Evans recalled Revard in 2018 giving a “fascinating” poetry reading at a gathering New Chaucer Society in Toronto.

His interests and knowledge went far beyond the Old and Middle English he had studied, encompassing everything from Shakespeare and Milton to contemporary writing.

Revard’s own poems included some with an unusual blend of Anglo-Saxon form with Native American themes: his “The Birch Canoe” at one point hung in the London Underground.

When Revard began teaching Native American writers classes, he influenced people like Michael Castro, who would become a close friend and St. Louis’s first Poet Laureate. Castro died in 2018.

Liam Otten, spokesman for the University of Washington, remembers taking a seminar in the 1990s with Revard. “We read Chaucer and Boccaccio alongside Native American myths and contemporary novels,” Otten said via email. “It was a large program, but in the hands of Professor Revard it felt seamless and even challenging. Listening to him make connections across different eras and different cultures, you realized that literature is not not just a series of great books, but a conversation you can really join.”

Revard had many interests, said his son Lawrence, an English lecturer at the University of Washington.

He thinks Revard’s usual emphasis on medieval and Native American culture “makes sense” insofar as both were “collective and local.”

He also highlights his father’s long-standing interest in multicultural literature, welcoming other voices and sharing ideas for research. “He wasn’t invested in showing off.”

Revard officially retired from teaching in 1997 but remained active and helped students, his son said. Revard participated in the Styx River Reading Series, was a recipient of the Osage Poet Prize, and held positions with the American Indian Center of Mid-America.

Throughout his life, Revard continued to offer financial assistance to his relatives and others. That generosity nearly cost him his house when he put it up as collateral for bail for Howard Mechanic, a student who was arrested during a 1970 campus protest in response to the state shooting. of Kent.

Mechanic was not charged with burning down the ROTC building at the University of Washington, but received a heavy five-year sentence after he allegedly threw a cherry bomb during the protest. (No one was injured and the only witness hesitated; the mechanic always denied the act).

After fleeing on bail, Mechanic went into hiding. But others, including William Danforth, Revard said, raised $10,000 to pay bail. (The mechanic was found 28 years later in Arizona; President Bill Clinton forgave him in 2001.)

Lawrence Revard does not recall his father actively protesting or marching, but says he “supported people who were dissidents” or who resisted oppression. When cousins ​​gathered during the 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee, Carter Revard went to see them, Dwain Camp recalled.

Dwain’s brother, Carter Camp, was the protest’s spokesman and a prominent member of the American Indian Movement.

Revard was “loyal in his support,” Dwain Camp recalled, and provided refuge for protesters who wanted to hide a little.

Revard included personal essays and memoirs in his books “Family Matters, Tribal Affairs” (1998) and “Winning the Dustbowl” (2001). His poetry collections include “Ponca War Dancers” (1980), “An Eagle Nation” (1993) and “How the Songs Come Down” (2005).

He was predeceased by his wife, Stella, in 2014. He is survived by his brothers Louis Jump of Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and Addison Jump Jr. of Brazil; one sister, Josephine Jump of Bartlesville; and his children, Stephen of Plain City, Ohio, Geoffrey of Bradenton, Florida, Vanessa Roman of St. Louis and Lawrence Revard of St. Louis.

Due to the pandemic, the memorial services will be held in the summer.

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