Rockefeller Bellagio Award winner Ralph Salisbury's book-length memoir, So Far So Good (winner of the 2012 Riverteeth Literary Nonfiction Award), is scheduled for publication by University of Nebraska Press in 2013. His three books of short fiction and ten books of poems evoke his Cherokee-Shawnee-Irish-English-American heritage. He has presented his work on stage, on radio and on TV, in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and India. His poem "In the Children's Museum in Nashville" was published in the New Yorker in 1960, and has attracted attention as a precursor to the contemporary Native American literary movement. In selecting his 2000 book Rainbows of Stone as an Oregon Book Award finalist in poetry, Maxine Kumin wrote: "Nature in Ralph Salisbury's conception is a Presence to be addressed. . . . His book deserves a broad audience." His most recent books are Blind Pumper at the Well (Salt Press, Cambridge, UK), The Indian Who Bombed Berlin (Michigan State University Press), and Light from a Bullet Hole: Poems New and Selected(Silverfish Review Press), which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.
Born of a Cherokee-Shawnee story-teller, singer father and a story-telling Irish American mother, he grew up hunting and trapping, for meat and pelts, and working on his family's farm, which had no electricity or running water. Through World War Two Air Force service, he earned six years of university education, and has worked at writing, editing, translating and teaching writing and literature, from 1950 to the present.
Though he has lived and worked among the intelligentsia of many nations, his writing comes from being a questing, mixed-race, working-class individual in a violent world, and he says that his work is offered to the spirit of human goodness, which unites all people in the eternal struggle against evil, a struggle to prevail against global extinction. Additional funding for Ralph Salisbury's visit was provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Milwaukee Arts Board and the Helen Bader Foundation.
For a Child Killed by Nuclear Fallout in Milk
As tall as a five year old it will fill
with energy and kill
with invisible spears
from a hill so high
the family will feel bereavement has come from
the Source of All Bereavement,
a ten gallon milk can holds one history of the world.
Since I am alive, my son's playmate dies
again, but only as fact, on this page
more fragile than Nagasaki shacks,
less fragile than my dream, now nearly gone,
of a home about to be bombed,
black sheets stretched across windows
from ceiling to floor.
"That sound," I cried,:"what is it?"
"Just water," my wife told me, "boiling for tea."
"Then someone lives here."
I awoke, afraid,
the newspaper chronicling my fear.