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Review of SWEET GRASS TALKING
by Renee Ametane'e Roman Nose
Uttered Chaos, 2017, 91 pages.
"What I am," writes Renee Roman Nose in her evocative poem, "The Card", "I am Cheyenne. My people, My Tribe that's who I am." An enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, this talented poet, activist and actor is the author of SWEET GRASS TALKING, her new collection of poetry. As President of Fierce Courage, Roman Nose shares her powerful presence in person as a Speaker and a Consultant. Now, her unique voice is available in a paperback volume of poems from Uttered Chaos.
Roman Nose is an engaging author, who addresses the issues of Indian Country with alacrity. Her poetry presents insights into the painful breach between adoptees and Indigenous culture in "The Lost Generation" and "Home for Children". "Patchwork-Quilted Crops Strewn Across The Land" demonstrates this poet's passion for justice and advocacy, by tackling the tough issue of mass incarceration. Challenging the textbook version of territorial expansion in "History Lesson", Roman Nose proves that she does not shy away from difficult subjects.
"Racism" recounts Roman Nose's disappointing delay in customer service due to a clerk's obvious prejudice. "We have paid over-and-over again In millions of acres lost In millions of lives lost. We have paid in blood To those who helped themselves To our country," Roman Nose answers when faced with the myth that tribal people do not pay taxes. She continues in the aptly titled poem, "Astonishment", saying, "To those we welcomed, fed Helped to survive Only to be repaid In treaty after treaty Each one worth as much as the paper They were written on Each paper promise forgotten By the Great White Father In Washington." Roman Nose deals with the death of children in "Calling Them Home," laments the tragedy of alcoholism in "Night Walking" and understands the outrage of historical grief and trauma in "Anger." Each of the poems presents an aspect of Native rage with respect and well-written reflections.
While talking about invisibility, egregious insults to Native culture and offenses faced by Indigenous individuals, this book definitely offers an educational perspective. Yet, Roman Nose is such a skillful writer that she balances the obstacles that Natives confront with the joys that fill reservations, powwows and tribal life. As a result, SWEET GRASS TALKING proffers a carefully constructed, multi-dimensional portrait of Native American people.
"The Warrior" is masterful praise for Indigenous Men, as well as a litany of traditional Native values. "Precious and few to nurture, Protect, prolong, and strengthen By hope" summarizes this tribute to the men of Native America's tribal communities. "Let your blood and the blood of your ancestors speak," Roman Nose urges in "Depth," "Speak to you, speak to us all." In "Dignity," this author honors the Elders, saying, " His movements reflect the beauty and the strength of the drum Enduring Everlasting Inspiring."
Roman Nose celebrates the beauty and forbearance of Native women. "A Mother's Love" touches hearts with the universal theme of maternal affection. "She reaches out to all," this poet chronicles in "Storyteller" as she warns that "only a few can hear." A tribute to a dear friend, "Native Bloom" recalls a "Native rose, Rose is her name She is a Native woman too strong to tame."
"My hand reaches out to you inviting you to join me in the circle, the round dance, friendship dance," writes Roman Nose in "Round Dance". She continues, "I help you up and lead you into the circle Guiding your footsteps As others guided mine." SWEET GRASS TALKING is a literary blend of insight, education and interest that invites readers to "dance together, for this moment in time the differences in our cultures are forgotten. For this moment we are joined In friendship and harmony."