Whereas: Poems (Paperback)
Whereas is the debut collection of Layli Long Soldier, but “debut” seems far too simplistic a word to describe the masterful, revelatory work she has created. As a response to the official U.S. apology to Native Americans signed by President Obama in 2009, this collection is rare in its experimental excellence and its exploration of the possibilities of language in responding to institutional racism and injustice. Long Soldier writes verses that don't rest, that are restricted and break free. This book is one to read immediately. As Long Soldier instructs, “Now / make room in the mouth / for grassesgrassesgrasses." -Mary— From Spring Booknotes 2017
March 2017 Indie Next List
“When pain is obvious but goes unrecognized, it feels like trying to strain salt from sugar. With the poems in Whereas, Layli Long Soldier engages with where she's 'from' through history and memory, analysis and reflection. Her mission? To stay angry - to declare, 'I'm here I'm not / numb to a single dot.' From rants and dreams and one lexical box to a pantomime of legalese, Long Soldier is agile, aware, and not asking for pity. She aims, instead, for action - 'whereas speaking, itself, is defiance.'”
— Annalia Luna, Brazos Bookstore, Houston, TX
The astonishing, powerful debut by the winner of a 2016 Whiting Writers' Award
"WHEREAS her birth signaled the responsibility as mother to teach what it is to be Lakota therein the question: What did I know about being Lakota? Signaled panic, blood rush my embarrassment. What did I know of our language but pieces? Would I teach her to be pieces? Until a friend comforted, Don t worry, you and your daughter will learn together. Today she stood sunlight on her shoulders lean and straight to share a song in Dine, her father's language. To sing she motions simultaneously with her hands; I watch her be in multiple musics."
from WHEREAS Statements
"WHEREAS" confronts the coercive language of the United States government in its responses, treaties, and apologies to Native American peoples and tribes, and reflects that language in its officiousness and duplicity back on its perpetrators. Through a virtuosic array of short lyrics, prose poems, longer narrative sequences, resolutions, and disclaimers, Layli Long Soldier has created a brilliantly innovative text to examine histories, landscapes, her own writing, and her predicament inside national affiliations. I am, she writes, a citizen of the United States and an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, meaning I am a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation and in this dual citizenship I must work, I must eat, I must art, I must mother, I must friend, I must listen, I must observe, constantly I must live. This strident, plaintive book introduces a major new voice in contemporary literature.
About the Author
Layli Long Soldier received a 2015 Lannan Fellowship for Poetry, a 2015 National Artist Fellowship from the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, and a 2016 Whiting Writers' Award. She lives in Arizona and teaches at Dine College.