In this searching, plaintive poetry collection, Native American poet Layli Long Soldier digs deep into the often unseen strata of language, history and identity. Whereas beautifully upends poetic forms to summon a powerful voice hidden in the interstices.

Long Soldier is a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation. Her poems confront the dual existence of those Americans belonging to a culture predating European colonialism. They address atrocities and injustices perpetrated against indigenous peoples and the duplicity of the American government in officially "apologizing" for historical wrongs. In fact, the collection's title refers to the government's self-indemnifying legalese, perhaps nowhere more conspicuous than in repeated use of the conjunction "whereas."

To break through such jargon, Long Soldier unleashes fierce poetic energy. While it manifests in experimentation with shape and punctuation--forcing attention to the bright lacunae of a page and alternately to isolated words in all their gravid peculiarity--it also produces cadences and images of breathtaking clarity: "Whereas since the moment had passed I accept what's done and the knife of my conscience/ slices with bone-clean self-honesty."
These poems are haunted by what Long Soldier describes as the "meta-phrasal ache of being language poor." Exploring this ache--and delving into the instability of linguistic meaning and identity--she is able to create a surprisingly positive argument for poetry as a way to fill the philosophic void and provide spiritual restitution. "My hope: my daughter understands wholeness for/ what it is, not for what it's not, all of it     the pieces." --Scott Neuffer, freelance journalist, poet and fiction author

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