From Publishers Weekly
Though a multiply award-winning novelist, Erdrich (Love Medicine, etc.) throughout the 1980s remained committed to verse; poems from Jacklight (1984) and Baptism of Desire (1989) represent her in many anthologies, some of them focused on Ojibwe heritage. This third book of poems begins with Erdrich's earliest work (much of it indebted to Richard Hugo), moves through a series of prose tales about the long-lived potato-trickster Potchikoo, then opens out into a mix of new and old verse. "All graves are pregnant with our nearest kin," Erdrich writes, and many of her poems regard first and last things-motherhood, family, death and mourning-sometimes as mythical universals, sometimes as they take place on reservations or in cold, forlorn small towns, each with its misfit (like "Step-and-a-Half Waleski") and its patron saint (the sarcastic "Rez Litany," the rapt "Seven Sleepers"). "The relentless throat call/ of physical love," and religions designed to deflect it, animate some of Erdrich's new sequences, which incorporate fairy tales, Christian ritual and reservation lore. Though her stark lines owe much (sometimes too much) to Louise Glck, Erdrich's particular landscapes and affiliations, and her way with myths and talismans, ensure that her poems, new and old, retain strengths all their own.
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Erdrich's fecund poems are seedbeds for her acclaimed novels, a key facet of her work newly revealed in this soul-rocking collection, her first volume of poetry in 14 years. An irrepressible storyteller, Erdrich writes supple and cunning narrative poems about families, lovers, and trickster figures as mischievous in the afterlife as they were in the flesh. Both body and spirit fascinate Erdrich because they are born of and sustained by the life force she calls the "original fire." Reflecting on her Ojibwa and European heritages, Erdrich is profoundly sensual, frankly bawdy, and slyly comedic. Deeply attuned to the sacred as it is manifest in everything from sunlight to stones to water to plants and animals, Erdrich grapples with both Native American and Christian beliefs, and the conflicts ignited by the friction between them, in poems of sweet gratitude, voluptuous ecstasy, cutting satire, seething grief, and fiery resolve. "I'm wild for everything," writes Erdrich, a poet who is, indeed, open to and inspirited by the radiance and heat, crackle and insistence of life. Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved