[10/03/23] Westerman, Gwen Nell: Songs, Blood Deep
Holy Cow Press, paperback
Publication Date: October 3rd, 2023
"The poems are quiet and powerful, understated and deeply moving."--Carter Revard, author of How the Songs Come Down: New & Selected Poems
What flows deep from the heart songs of these poems is Gwen Westerman's proud and profound engagement with and transmission of closely held cultural values of the Dakota people. Originating from the prairies of the Great Plains, this is a collection that affirms a passion for family, community, and the environment. Westerman draws upon both English and the Dakota language to celebrate the survival of her people and articulate the conflicts of the past and present, so that an enriched future will endure. The long opening poem reclaims the Mississippi River as a sacred resource, "In the beginning/de Dakota Makoce/this was a Dakota place./The water was pure." Historical misinformation about the First Peoples is unmasked, the record set straight apart from how explorers and conquering armies have wrongly portrayed the past. Herein life-affirming words are conveyed from grandmother, to mother, to children and offered as a gift to the reader, "This is my give-away--to touch what is good in you/with words your heart can hear."