WHEREAS – Layli Long Soldier
Download WHEREAS ebook. Finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry
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.
“WHEREAS is an excavation, reorganization and documentation of a structure of language that has talked the United States through its many acts of violence. . . . She has built a poetics that refuses . . . boundaries. . . . Long Soldier’s poems are radical in structure and constraint. . . . 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. . . . Long Soldier reminds readers of their physical and linguistic bodies as they are returned to language through their mouths and eyes and tongues across the fields of her poems.”―The New York Times Book Review
“Using elliptical prose, blank spaces, crossed-out text, and Lakota words, Long Soldier articulates both her identity and her literary undertaking.”―The New Yorker
“Writers who live between two languages face an extra challenge in their role as lexicographers of metaphor. . . . 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.”―Los Angeles Times
“Layli Long Solider galvanizes the literary world with her extraordinary debut, WHEREAS. . . . Long Soldier’s powerful lyricism writes back to official doctrine and serves as an essential teaching for all Americans.”―San Francisco Chronicle
“The Whereas Statements lay bare the realities and contrasts of Long Soldier’s life and her role as an Oglala Lakota poet, mother,and daughter. There are moments of beautiful intimacy, connection, and forgiveness; there is also an awareness of separation, andacknowledgement of the difficulty (sometimes, impossibility) of repair.”―The Atlantic
“Elegant, innovative, and necessary.”―BuzzFeed
“This collection of ‘short lyrics, prose poems, longer narrative sequences, resolutions, and disclaimers’ stands as a reckoning.”―The Village Voice
“Stranded between two languages, Long Soldier invents her own. She revolutionizes English from the inside, making it more inclusive and, therefore, more American. . . . WHEREAS is palpably contemporary, a rejoinder to the notion that Native Americans are, somehow, less present than anyone else. Long Soldier’s poems take on new forms and subjects at a pace that outstrips summary. Together, they ‘ink-inject the permanent reminder: I’m here I’m not / numb to a single dot.’”―BOMB Magazine
“One of the most innovative collections of poetry I’ve come across in a long time. . . . WHEREAS is a masterful example of compositional resistance. . . . Long Soldier sutures found language with her own lyrically stark diction, making poems that are amalgams of poetry and proclamation. . . . WHEREAS is an ambitious, ground breaking book. The world needs more of those.”―Dean Rader, Ploughshares
“WHEREAS is a poetic document of force, an indictment of bureaucratic language that makes violence passive. . . . Long Soldier’s book is diverse in form and function, a beautiful work of book art that needs to ne held and museum-shown.”―The Millions
“In WHEREAS, we are given a substantive act of intelligent, crafted resistance.”―Harvard Review
“I daresay the entire book is one epic poem. It is a poetry of history, territory, and the sacred lands of the heart comprised of prose pieces, short lyrics, longer narrative sequences, lyrical proclamations, and spunky disclaimers, some broken off so that the sentences look like patterns for a tapestry or a square around an empty space. . . . With WHEREAS, Layli Long Soldier teaches us that the more we include and are included, the more genuinely American we become.”―Radius
“[Layli Long Soldier] implicates the line between the political and the personal, writing with apparent concern for both, but also looking at the ways in which one is imposed upon the other. . . . [She] alternates between scrutiny and more tender, intimate passages that equally reinforce her project of interrogation.”―Los Angeles Review of Books
“This would be an important, beautiful book no matter what historical moment it appeared in, but in light of the state brutality in response to the Standing Rock protest, and America’s giant step backward in the presidential election, Long Soldier’s interrogative, challenging poems seem especially important.”―Literary Hub
“WHEREAS is a superb achievement, a must-have text for classrooms and libraries and for devotees of fine literature who advocate for human rights and social justice.”―World Literature Today
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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.
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