Copper Canyon. Nov. 2018. 80p. ISBN 9781556595455. pap. $16. POETRY
OrangeReviewStarBitsui, author of the American Book Award and PEN Open Book Award-winning Floodsongs, uses precise, sharply visual imagery to examine the Native American identity and its cultural survival in the contemporary world. Alienation, loneliness, life on the reservation, and the destruction of the natural world form the main themes of this book-length poem sequence, which is pervaded by a sense of grief over our severed kinship with nature and the painful fading of its throbbing forms to a blur: "A lake, now a tire-rut pool/ leaves bitter aftertastes/ on single-roomed tongues." Bitsui deftly blends personal and contemporary experience with an understanding of his Navajo heritage, creating a world filled with things that are continually shedding their old garments and transitioning. At the same time, his quest to reconnect with life's vital powers, within and around us, reveals the shroud that modern life has spread over them: "Strangers to our breath/ we wheeze in dying trees/ then take the shape/ of toothless mouths suckling/ the driest month's driest branches."
VERDICT Bitsu goes beyond the local, using intense observation to explore broader issues of politics, spirituality, and the fragmentation of human life. Recommended for all poetry readers.
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