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IN THE VEINS
Edited by Patricia Busbee. Greenfield, MA: Blue Hand Books Collective, 2016.
Review by Dr. Dawn Karima
Achingly poignant poems permeate the pages of this
powerful anthology. IN THE VEINS explores the
intersection between identity, adoption, assimilation
and insights. Pulling together poets from diverse
Native tribes and different regions, this collection is
evocative and effective. Expertly edited by Patricia
Busbee, this anthology's strength lies in such a grand
array of expressive and introspective writers.
Part of the Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects, this anthology "offers exquisite interpretation of life and story, personal perceptions, and their views on issues of historical trauma, land-taking, loss of identity and culture and child theft/adoption projects in the name of Manifest Destiny." Each poet discusses ethnicity, colonialism, personal identity and tribal heritage "What is an Indian? How do we embody an name that did not originate from ourselves?" poet Tanajsia Slaughter asks. "A name that brings anger to some and confusion to others," the Chiricahua Apache/Trini author muses, "We are strong, and yet weak. A man, a woman, a child, a parent. We are generations long."
A sense of place prominently fills these poems. So does a sense of longing, as the poets grapple with their own positions in tribal communities, families and on the land. Driftpile Cree Nation scholar Billy-Ray Belcourt struggles with the importance of place to Native people in "god's river" saying, "think maybe reserve is another word for morgue is another word for body bags --call it home anyways."
Identity is another issue throughout these artistic expressions. ""Sometimes," Cherokee descendant Marijo Moore reflects on her grandfather's teachings, "It's better not to claim you're Indian in these parts of Tennesse. Everyone needs someone to look down on. Everyone." Karuk author Judi Armbruster bridges the gap between identity and estrangement in "Come Home". "To all that hurt because of culture lost," she exhorts, "I have felt you pain." She continues, "To all who are angry because their connection seems broken I have been there too…To all who are still reaching and searching I offer these words: The dreams and the songs live in the earth."
IN THE VEINS represents raw, unfettered emotions merging with skillful poetic alacrity. An important contribution to the historical record of the "Lost Generation" of Native adoptees, this paperback is a welcome addition to class syllabi, libraries, and homes. Most of all, this volume is a triumph of strong writing and stirring poetry.