New Poets of Native Nations is seriously captivating.
Graywolf Press’ collection of Native Nations writers isn’t comprehensive—and it doesn’t intend to be. Editor Heid E. Erdrich has collected poems by 21 writers, all of whom began publishing in the 21st century and many of whom are in the “emerging voice” realm of poets who’ve yet to publish a second book. Within those criteria, there’s a great diversity of ages, affiliations, schools and styles. I didn’t fall in love with every poem or every poet represented, and I don’t think anyone should ever expect to with an anthology. But this book is a wonderful, needed, vital breath of air.
This anthology is an essential resource for anyone who wants to discover new, contemporary American voices. It encompasses writers of diverse ages, language influences and stylistic preoccupations, celebrants and mourners, historians and dreamers, taxonomists and mystics. Some of these poets were already familiar to me; several were not. Some thrilled me (Janet McAdams and Layli Long Soldier in particular); some I won’t be in a hurry to seek out. With such a mosaic of styles and themes and voices, that will probably be the case for most readers. Personal taste is…well, personal. But the pure craft and diligence that went into developing this anthology are beyond debate.
New Poets of Native Nations is a wonderfully conceived collection, full of exciting juxtapositions, rich language and a fine equipoise between generosity and restraint. It’s safe to say New Poets of Native Nations is an essential read.
Amy Glynn is a poet, essayist and fiction writer. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.