America the Beautiful

Feb 6th, 2014 | By | Category: 25-3: Preserving and Protecting Knowledge, Media Reviews

West End Press (2010)
100 pages

Review by April D. J. Petillo

Whether you revere or dislike her work, any book by Paula Gunn Allen (Laguna Pueblo) is bound to elicit some response. This poetry collection, sent off to the editors at West End Press just nine days before her death, is no exception.

Split into two sections, the work reveals polished and not-so-polished pieces reflective of an artist grappling with the dichotomies of life—strength and weakness, disappointment and exaltation, creation and destruction—that impact us as individuals and as larger communities. Through her writing, Gunn Allen makes use of word play, vivid descriptions, political commentary, and whimsical imaginaries. In “Apache Warrior- Apache Troop” she explores challenging territory, such as the U.S. habit of warring with others, itself, and nature. And in “Self-Portrait and a Wish” she offers intimate self-reflections.

This work stands alone as a moving portrait and commentary of a Native woman’s life lived with eyes wide open. It also ranks beside other poetic, academic, and political pieces in Gunn Allen’s legacy. America the Beautiful is not to be missed.

April D. J. Petillo is an American Indian Studies Ph.D. candidate at the University of Arizona.

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