Poet Jennifer Reeser has a new sonnet at Rattle, a print and online magazine known for publishing poets laureate and emerging voices. The sonnet, “Strong Feather Buries the White Woman’ is powerful, not just in terms of the history of our young country, the US, but in terms of my personal history.
By coincidence as I read her sonnet for the first time, I was also engrossed in Reeser’s latest collection, Indigenous. In between reading those poems, I’ve been immersed in reading the A Song of Ice and Fire novels the HBO series Game of Thrones was based upon. Her work is a perfect fit for those novels. Why?
Reeser’s book and the sonnet in Rattle explore her Native American heritage, giving a new voice to a culture long stereotyped by all manner of creatives and media. Reeser remarked at her Web site:
“I write a considerable amount of poetry in ‘assumed’ voices. Strong Feather is an American Indian character of my own creation, the center of a collection recently completed, by the same name. I have written these in order to create a new kind of poetry, which gives voice to a long-overlooked—and under-represented—point of view, in a style which has not heretofore existed in literature.”
Reeser’s journey into her heritage is not unique. Many of us learn things about our family histories, and what we learn enlightens us in a number of ways. What is unique about Reeser’s spiritual journey account is her outstanding talent as a poet. As I read the sonnet published at Rattle, I realized how capably a fine poet can send the reader reeling into a journey of her own.
The history of my country is, in one way, a history of mankind. Dating to the earliest recorded history, accounts of conquerors and the conquered occur in cultures around the globe. My own family’s history, on both sides, is documented well enough for me to know that although my maternal ancestors were fierce and far more advanced than once believed, they were ultimately done in by the Romans and likely converted to Christianity at the point of a sword.
As I read “Strong Feather Buries the White Woman,” I realized the sense of finality in the speaker who, like many of my ancestors, knew he would migrate. The final two lines of that sonnet, resting on kinship with the land and the soil, spoke directly to me because that kinship was similar to the spiritual beliefs of my ancestors.
Reeser’s book is a treasure of poetry; I plan to write about the book once I finish it. I read the poem in Rattle at least ten times; I find myself doing the same with the poems in her book Indigenous.
Art like the works Reeser created give me hope for our culture. We are bombarded by artifice and uniformity in so much of our art these days. It is a joy to find a writer and poet who thinks for herself, who gives voice to the conquered in a new way, who refuses to succumb to the academic status quo churning out poetry mill works few Americans want to read.
As I read the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, I reflect on how similar all our histories are. Despite thousands and thousands of years of civilization, I sometimes think we humans have learned nothing. Although the novels and Reeser’s poems comprise specific cultures, the novels are also classed as fantasy. Yet I think both sum up the human condition in very similar ways.
Reeser’s sonnet at Rattle is like a kick in the gut. The irony is that I went back for more as I read and reread those 14 power-packed lines. Reeser’s work is accessible and brilliant at the same time. That is very hard for any writer to accomplish.
You can read Reeser’s poem at Rattle.
Reeser also has a great deal of content on her Website where you can also learn how to purchase her book, Indigenous.
(Kay B. Day/May 29, 2019)