by Denise Low
University of Arizona Press, 2024
eISBN: 978-0-8165-5359-4 | Paper: 978-0-8165-5358-7
Library of Congress Classification PS3562.O877
Dewey Decimal Classification 811.54

Intertwining a lyrical voice with historical texts, poet Denise Low brings fresh urgency to the Gnadenhutten Massacre. In 1782, a renegade Pennsylvania militia killed ninety-six pacificist Christian Delawares (Lenapes) in Ohio. Those who escaped, including Indigenous eyewitnesses, relayed their accounts of the atrocity. Like Layli Longsoldier’s Whereas and Simon Ortiz’s from Sand Creek, Low delves into a critical incident of Indigenous peoples’ experiences. Readers will explore with the poet how trauma persists through hundreds of years, and how these peoples have survived and flourished in the subsequent generations.

In a personal poetic treatment of documents, oral tradition, and images, the author embodies the contradictions she unravels. From a haunting first-person perspective, Low’s formally inventive archival poetry combines prose and lyric, interweaving verse with historical voices in a dialogue with the source material. Each poem builds into a larger narrative on American genocide, the ways in which human loss corresponds to ecological destruction, and how intimate knowledge of the past can enact healing.

Ultimately, these poems not only reconstruct an important historical event, but they also put pressure on the gaps, silences, and violence of the archive. Low asks readers to question not only what is remembered, but how history is remembered—and who is forgotten from it. Reflecting on the injustice of the massacre, the Shawnee leader Tecumseh lamented that though “the Americans murdered all the men, women, and children, even as they prayed to Jesus . . . no American ever was punished, not one.” These poems challenge this attempted erasure.

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