Words like thunder New and used Anishinaabe prayers

Lois Beardslee

Book - 2020

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Made in Michigan writers series.
Detroit : Wayne State University Press [2020]
Physical Description
127 pages : illustrations, portrait ; 23 cm
Main Author
Lois Beardslee (author)
  • Words like thunder
  • Kicking and screaming
  • Geographic analysis of hearts and lungs of Holocaust survivors
  • Dark days, long nights.
Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Presented as an interconnected sequence of "new and used Anishinaabe prayers," Beardslee's timely debut places age-old poetic traditions in dialogue with contemporary ones. These carefully linked texts take the form of flash essays, micro fictions, and other kinds of hybrids that resist genre categorization. Throughout, the speaker expresses her fear that tradition will be forgotten: "Back home, the piebalds lived business as usual... Praying out loud in desperation, with no new generations/ To come home and renew their songs and stories with changing histories and lessons." Beardslee inhabits and revises the received tropes of storytelling, from oral tradition to the strictures of traditional poetic forms like couplets, tercets, and quatrains. Indeed, the speaker of these hybrid pieces describes her search "for coping mechanisms and transformations among changing environments and unpredictability." These "changing" conditions give rise to literary collage, hybridity, and experimentation within received structures. True to Beardslee's artistic intention, this book explores tradition through innovative techniques that will appeal to 21st-century readers. (Apr.) Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Modern Native American poetry and prose that celebrate the successes, while acknowledging contemporary, ongoing challenges.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Words like Thunder: New and Used Anishinaabe Prayers is a collection of poetry by award-winning Ojibwe author Lois Beardslee. Much of the book centers around Native people of the Great Lakes but has a universal relevance to modern indigenous people worldwide. Beardslee tackles contemporary topics like climate change and socioeconomic equality with a grace and readability that empowers readers and celebrates the strengths of today's indigenous peoples. She transforms the mundane into the sacred. Similar in style to Nikki Giovanni, Beardslee might lure in readers with the promise of traditional cultural material, even stereotypes, before quickly pivoting toward a direction of respect for the contemporaneity and adaptability of indigenous people's tenacious hold on traditions.

Made up of four sections, the book is like a piece of artwork. Parts of the word-canvas are quiet so the reader can rest and other parts lead the reader quickly from one place to another, while always maintaining eye contact. More than anything, Beardslee emphasizes the notion that indigenous peoples are competent and wonderful, worthy of praise, and whose modernity is a function of their survival. She writes unapologetically with a strong ethnic identity as a woman of color who witnessed and experienced community loss of resources that defined her culture. Her stories transcend generations, time, and geographical boundaries'varying in voice between first person or that of her elders or children'resulting in a collective appeal.

Beardslee continues to break the mold and push the boundaries of contemporary Native American poetry and prose. This book will appeal to a general readership, to people who want to learn more about indigenous peoples of the Great Lakes, and to people who care about the environment and socioeconomic equality. Even young readers, especially students of color, will find parts of this book to which they can relate.