Harper’s Anthology of 20th Century Native American Poetry

Edited by Duane Niatum
Copyright 1988
Checked out 5 times in 22 years
Last checked out 3 years ago

This collection of more contemporary Native American poetry is a perfect extension of the more ethnographic collection at this library I reviewed earlier. And it’s a great example of what an anthology should be (as opposed to the anthology I reviewed yesterday). The editor has provided an introduction and there are notes on the contributors in the back. As I have said about African American poetry, it would be a mistake to think of the poetry in this volume as limited because of the ethnic/racial focus in selecting the poets. There are many Native cultures and of course, many individual perspectives even within one culture. At first glance, all of the poetry appears to be free verse, and there may be more poetry focused on the natural world found between these covers than in a more general anthology of contemporary poetry but that should only make it more appealing to the people of this area. This volume hasn’t had great circulation, but a couple of times a decade is respectable for any poetry book. I recommend keeping this not only because it’s wonderful collection of interesting, well-written poetry (as with The Language of Life, it has one of my favorite poems by Joy Harjo) but as a diversity component, and an especially apt one considering Albertville’s place along the Trail of Tears. Though the Native American community here isn’t very noticeable, it does exist, made evident at least once a year by a local powwow.

As I’ve mentioned before, I wish a newer collection of Native American Poetry would come out. Sherman Alexie and Adrian Louis are two noteworthy Native poets who come to mind who have since made an impact on the poetry scene since this book was published. I would encourage librarians to watch for such a volume.

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About jppoetryreader

Poetry reviewer and poetry consultant for libraries
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