... a remarkable collection and a vital addition to the vast Norton anthology lineup ... the most inclusive and the most comprehensive anthology of Native American poetry to date ... an unusual anthology in that it seems to have no interest in individual canonicity. It prioritizes genealogy over gatekeeping. Or, put another way, the anthology is less about poets and more about poems, which aligns with much Native aesthetic production ... Harjo, Howe, and Foerster have done a marvelous job demonstrating how Indigenous poetry is a not a banner but a quilt ... In addition to scope, the editors make other fascinating editorial decisions. One is the book’s arrangement. Instead of presenting the poets chronologically, this collection is organized by region ... Allowing the poems of the regions to have conversations with these events (and each other) accentuates shared experiences. It makes the subtle argument that Indigenous America is a nation of many nations. There are macro convergences, yes, but there are also discrete regional particularities ... in all honesty, wherever one opens the book, one will encounter a poem that feels urgent, timely, necessary ... Harjo, Howe, and Foerster have put together a fantastic anthology when it comes to reading and teaching, but when it comes to reviewing, there is virtually nothing scandalous for me to write about, even though, in the last decade, big poetry anthologies have emerged as lightning rods of controversy and criticism ... What makes this particular anthology unique (and useful) is its reluctance to play the hierarchy game or the poetic school game or the identity game. Harjo’s organizing principle appears to be equal parts generosity and pedagogy ... decenters the individual author and his or her accomplishments in favor of supporting an entire community. Rather than an assemblage of solos, When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through is a chorus. And right now, we need as many powerful voices in union as we can get.
The engrossing, often riveting book is organized by geographic area, with powerfully insightful essays that convey the distinctiveness and diversity of each region ... The variety and range of their work are stunning – from rhythmic, meditative poems to spoken word and abstract pieces – as is the tragic history that shapes so much of the writing ... The anthology is nuanced and complex. Writers explore identity, universal concerns, and the challenge of writing about their cultures ... Other young writers, such as Tommy Pico and Natalie Diaz, who was recently named to the longlist for the 2020 National Book Award in poetry, use edgy verse to challenge stereotypes. Their efforts continue a long tradition of innovative, evocative writing ... The full range of emotions and responses is evident throughout this compelling collection, which leaves the reader wanting more from each writer yet eager to begin the next selection ... Together, those voices convey the importance and power of poetry, which held customs, song, and hope, and couldn’t be taken away.
... nothing less than a landmark anthology of Native Nations Poetry ... a stunning compendium ... The stunning imagery of these works and humanitarian cry of the 'songs, spells, and prayers' in this book, are a journey of poetic discovery and virtuosic craft ... Several of the poets are writing both in their ancestral languages juxtaposed next to the English translations, an opportunity to experience the intended full artistry—the rhythms, sounds, and preservation of the tribal storytelling traditions. Their verse, from classical forms to modernist expression, is the antithesis of Euro-centric sensibilities pedagogy ... The poets in this anthology are artists, historians, and keepers of the truths of their heritage, their people, and their lands. These poems are testament to their personal journeys and this collection is transcendent in its authority and eternal power.