LAYLI LONG SOLDIER with DIANE TOMHAVE
Word here on an utterly great, timely, powerful first book of poems: Layli Long Soldier’s Whereas (Graywolf Press), follows what is almost a line coming from Graywolf of similar though very distinct works that meld deep artistry with strong convictions in the realm of social justice, these including Claudia Rankine’s award-winning Citizen: An American Lyric and Solmaz Sharif’s National Book Award-finalist Look. A recipient of a Whiting Award and a Lannan Literary Fellowship, she is bound to be heard from. Introducing her this evening will be Diane Tomhave, whose present work includes helping establish the Indigenous Peoples’ Institute at Seattle University.
“Layli Long Soldier is the poet-architect in the arena of witness and longing. Her work interrogates poetic form and the legacy of a history of brutality and extermination. Her collection, Whereas, continually asks questions of both the reader and the author as Long Soldier considers the way Native American identity can be expressed on the page—what language should be used, what rules should be followed? What does authenticity or authorship mean when so much of one culture has been wiped out by another? Elegant and painful, formally surprising, personal and historic, this is a fearless, polyphonic crossing of cultures and languages in the service of both tenderness and trenchant critique.”—Whiting Award Citation.
“Whereas, the need to poet is carried from one generation to the next. Whereas, those of us who have gone before keep watch to see who will emerge to take on the burden of history, to make poems of blood and love. Whereas, we need poems that will wind through the broken places in our gutted imagination. Whereas, Layli Long Soldier is one of the finest singers of her generation to be called through the doorway of poetry. Whereas, in this first collection she has made a stunning poetry of tribal-personal awareness, injustice and words tightened with the sinew of truth. Whereas, in these poems there can be no false claims, no boundaries, no treaties. Whereas, these poems are a young Oglala Lakota poet taking her place, as she follows in the path of buffalo, horses, Indian cars, and patient ancestors. Whereas, we are in a century still drenched in gunshot and longing. Whereas, these poems are the songs you need to make it through to the other side.”—Joy Harjo. A night not to be missed.