cover image One Stick Song

One Stick Song

Sherman Alexie. Hanging Loose Press, $15 (91pp) ISBN 978-1-882413-76-8

Whether slyly identifying irony as a white man's invention, or deftly moving from prose-like multilayered narratives to formal poetry and song structures, this fifth collection from poet (The Business of Fancydancing; etc.), novelist (Indian Killer; etc.) and screenwriter (Smoke Signals) Alexie demonstrates many of his skills. Most prominent perhaps is his ability to handle multiple perspectives and complex psychological subject matter with a humor that feeds readability: ""Successful non-Indian writers are viewed as well-informed about Indian life. Successful mixed-blood writers are viewed as wonderful translators of Indian life. Successful Indian writers are viewed as traditional storytellers of Indian life."" Poems such as the title one, a haunting chant for lost family, and ""The Theology of Cockroaches,"" do some vivid scene setting: ""...never/ woke to a wall filled with cockroaches/ spelling out my name, never/ stepped into a dark room and heard/ the cockroaches baying at the moon."" At times Alexie allows his language, within the lineated poems almost exclusively, to slacken into clich . The opening, multipart prose piece ""The Unauthorized Autobiography of Me"" is arguably the strongest in the book, juxtaposing roughly chronological anecdotes with ""An Incomplete List of People I Wish Were Indian"" and the formula ""Poetry = anger x imagination."" Other poems tell of ""Migration, 1902"" and ""Sex in Motel Rooms""; describe ""How it Happens"" and ""Second Grief""; and develop ""The Anatomy of Mushrooms."" Alexie's latest is as powerful and challenging as his previous excellent books, and should only add readers to his ever-widening audience. (Sept.)