WHEREAS by Layli Long Soldier
Poems

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Long Soldier’s emphasis on typography doesn’t mean she ignores prosody. She describes her newborn daughter’s eyes as “untied from northern poles from/ hard unseen winter months.” Her moving poems about motherhood are not anomalies in this deeply political text.
-Star Tribune

Synopsis

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 Diné, 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 Layli Long Soldier

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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 Diné College.
 
Published March 7, 2017 by Graywolf Press. 121 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for WHEREAS
All: 3 | Positive: 3 | Negative: 0

Star Tribune

Good
Reviewed by Elizabeth Hoover on Aug 25 2017

Long Soldier’s emphasis on typography doesn’t mean she ignores prosody. She describes her newborn daughter’s eyes as “untied from northern poles from/ hard unseen winter months.” Her moving poems about motherhood are not anomalies in this deeply political text.

Read Full Review of WHEREAS: Poems | See more reviews from Star Tribune

LA Times

Good
Reviewed by John Freeman on May 05 2017

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.

Read Full Review of WHEREAS: Poems | See more reviews from LA Times

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Natalie Diaz on Aug 04 2017

...“Whereas” ensures that this grief, this absence, will be given presence, be given a body to wonder: “If I’m transformed by language, I am often / crouched in footnote or blazing in title. / Where in the body do I begin.”

Read Full Review of WHEREAS: Poems | See more reviews from NY Times

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