About this poet

Layli Long Soldier received a BFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts and an MFA from Bard College. She is the author of WHEREAS (Graywolf Press, 2017), which won the 2018 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award and was short-listed for the National Book Award. Long Soldier has received a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a National Artist Fellowship from the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, and a Whiting Writers’ Award. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

from WHEREAS ["Whereas when offered..."]

WHEREAS when offered an apology I watch each movement the shoulders
                        high or folding, tilt of the head both eyes down or straight through
                        me, I listen for cracks in knuckles or in the word choice, what is it
                        that I want? To feel and mind you I feel from the senses—I read
                        each muscle, I ask the strength of the gesture to move like a poem.
                        Expectation’s a terse arm-fold, a failing noun-thing
                        I scold myself in the mirror for holding.

                        Because I learn from young poets. One sends me new work spotted
                        with salt crystals she metaphors as her tears. I feel her phrases,
                        “I say,” and “Understand me,” and “I wonder.”

                        Pages are cavernous places, white at entrance, black in absorption.
                        Echo.

                        If I’m transformed by language, I am often
                        crouched in footnote or blazing in title.
                        Where in the body do I begin;

From WHEREAS. Copyright © 2017 by Layli Long Soldier. Used by permission of The Permissions Company, Inc. on behalf of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.

From WHEREAS. Copyright © 2017 by Layli Long Soldier. Used by permission of The Permissions Company, Inc. on behalf of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.

Layli Long Soldier

Layli Long Soldier is the author of WHEREAS (Graywolf Press, 2017).

by this poet

poem

Because drag changes when spoken of in the past i.e. he was dragged or they drug him down the long road, the pale rock and brown. Down dust, a knocking path. And to drag has a begin point (though two are considered): begins when man is bound; begins also with one first tug.

poem
* bring us to dark knots the black 
eyes along white aspen skin to scrape 
with a rock on surface where I press 
I carve the initials of all and  **
***  bring us to a returning 	  no 
an urning a vessel of corpse
ash in the active state of being
held by two hands positioned 
gripping the sides to tip
poem

But
is the small way to begin.

But I could not.

As I am limited to few
words at command, such as wanblí.   This
was how I wanted to begin, with the little
I know.

But could not.