Alexander Lawrence Posey (Creek) (1873-1908)
Daniel F. Littlefield, Jr.
Classroom Issues and Strategies
Students should have no problems with the "Ode" but may have
difficulties with the dialect in the Hotgun poem and the Fus Fixico letter.
Present these matters in the same way one would present them in relation
to other dialect writers of the period: e.g., Clemens,
Chopin. Present the
"Ode" as one would the lesser lyrics of a Bryant
or a Longfellow, for
Students are interested in the question of Indian-U.S. relations, not
only in Posey's time but before and after. They are also curious about
the "Americanization" of Indians like Posey (e.g., his romantic
lyrics, his classical education, etc.). This issue leads ultimately to
questions of assimilation and cultural discontinuity.
Major Themes, Historical Perspectives, and Personal Issues
1. Passing of the Indian (that foolish concept of the "vanishing
American"). The interesting point is that Posey, and many other Indian
writers, bought the idea to some extent.
2. Romanticizing the "great" man, whether he is Sequoyah or
Yadeka Harjo. (Why would an Indian choose these as great men?)
3. "Progress" as it translated into materialism; the learned
"need" for material things versus the desire for a "simpler,"
culture-centered society; uncertainty in time of culture change.
Significant Form, Style, or Artistic Conventions
Discuss with the students the same questions that apply to any lyrical
poetry, to any dialect poetry, and to any dialect prose, especially Joel
Chandler Harris and the professional dialect humorists, the "Phunny
Phellows" of the late nineteenth century. Posey's dialect fits squarely
into the local color movement. If we can have Harte in the West, Cable
and Chopin in Louisiana,
Garland in the Midwest,
Harris in Georgia, why not Posey in the Indian Territory?
Posey published most of his poems in Indian Territory newspapers and
magazines. He wrote for a western audience. Posey, like many Indians at
the turn of the century, witnessed a great attrition in Indian culture
as the U.S. pushed a policy of assimilation. He attempted to document the
passing of Indian folk heroes, great and small. Recent American Indian
writing deals in large measure with attempts at rediscovering what has
been lost. Writers like Posey anticipate the themes of many contemporary
American Indian or Chinese or Japanese or Chicano writers.
The most complete treatment of Posey's life is Daniel F. Littlefield,
Jr.'s Alex Posey: Creek Poet, Journalist, and Humorist. Lincoln:
University of Nebraska, 1992. Also very helpful are the historical introduction
and annotations in Alexander Posey, The Fus Fixico Letters, ed.
Daniel F. Littlefield, Jr. and Carol Petty Hunter. Lincoln University of