Layli Long Soldier

Layli Long Soldier


Griffin Poetry Prize 2018
International Shortlist

Book: Whereas

Poet: Layli Long Soldier

Publisher: Graywolf Press

Click here to read an excerpt.

Layli Long Soldier


Layli Long Soldier earned a BFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts and an MFA with honours from Bard College. She is the author of the chapbook Chromosomory (2010) and the full-length collection Whereas (2017), which was a finalist for the National Book Awards. She has been a contributing editor to Drunken Boat and is poetry editor at Kore Press; in 2012, her participatory installation, Whereas We Respond, was featured on the Pine Ridge Reservation. In 2015, Long Soldier was awarded a National Artist Fellowship from the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation and a Lannan Literary Fellowship for Poetry. A citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation, Long Soldier lives in Tsaile, Arizona, in the Navajo Nation, with her husband and daughter. She is an adjunct faculty member at Diné College.

Judges’ Citation

“Layli Long Soldier’s Whereas repurposes congressional doublespeak in order to lay bare the murderous hypocrisy lurking behind the official language of the state. Deftly deploying a variety of techniques and idioms, Long Soldier has crafted an intricate and urgent counter-history, a work of elegy, outrage and profound generosity that explores what possibilities of interconnection in the present might be enabled by a genuine reckoning with the past. “I am a citizen of the United States and an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe,” Long Soldier writes in the introduction to the title poem, “meaning I am a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation — and in this dual citizenship, I must work, I must eat, I must art, I must mother, I must friend, I must listen, I must observe, constantly I must live.’”

Head Count

In the brain I met someone educated. I spoke to this person who is educated. In the brain I spoke about unbrained things hormones and children nursing and nights without a child in the bed. Sleeping. I spoke about sleeping and in the brain I left our conversation. I went home to undress my things hormones and children and night. In the blue and undressing bed I thought of Jacob or who was it that slept with a rock as a pillow? Things I’ve learned in passing he laid his head on a rock at night and perhaps he would never dismiss the educated. So I think about education and that’s as far / then muse the rock. Was it speckled or black, rounded or granite, saw-toothed. Does the padding of hair scalp skin and blood rested upon a rock, pulse? Surely. I feel sad for the blood bruised scalp but not for the man who was it. So much I don’t know I have burned myself into a bed corner, lights out. Badly brainished.

From Whereas by Layli Long Soldier
Copyright © 2017 by Layli Long Soldier

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