A NBCC Award-winning poetry collection which 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.
This book troubles our consideration of the language we use to carry our personal and national narratives ... Long Soldier is aware of the American tradition of reading a racial or ethnic identity, especially an indigenous language, as an art form. She has built a poetics that refuses those boundaries, even when she engages with her Lakota identity. Her literary lineage is wide and demanding ... Rather than subverting any particular structure, Long Soldier is leaping into new 'not yet defined' spaces. Whereas challenges the making and maintenance of an empire by transforming the page to withstand the tension of an occupied body, country and, specifically, an occupied language ... Though the Congressional resolution of apology to Native Americans is void of any gestures signaling sincere repair, Whereas ensures that this grief, this absence, will be given presence, be given a body to wonder.
Writers who live between two languages face an extra challenge in their role as lexicographers of metaphor. They must create a mythology through language that acts like double-pane glass. As in, they must correct for the distortion of the words they are translating from one language to another...Layli Long Soldier manages this double-ness with the precision of a master glassblower ... You do not slip into this book on silken bolts of easy beauty, but scratch yourself raw on language disassembled into glittering shards ... Two of Long Soldier's great strengths are the use of repetition like a hammer on concepts she believes need breaking, and lyricism when she believes a reader needs to feel wonder.
...one of the most innovative collections of poetry I’ve come across in a long time ... Long Soldier’s concern with whereas is akin to Solmaz Sharif’s in her powerful poem, 'Look.' Both poets interrogate beau acratic terminology, ultimately performing a poetic intervention on the vague, subject-free obfuscations that have come to characterize official governmental language. What is especially compelling about Long Soldier is that she not only undermines language, she undermines form as well ... Some readers may find elements of these poems too experimental or too difficult or perhaps even too political. And, to be sure, some pieces are more fully realized than others, but I’m okay with that, and I’m betting Long Soldier is as well. Whereas is an ambitious, ground breaking book. The world needs more of those.