These poems, written in the last decade of Paula Gunn Allen's life and the first years of the new century, capture the variety, ingenuity, and complexity of this beloved and influential Native American critic and poet. In the lexicon of Paula Gunn Allen, what makes America beautiful may come as a surprise: its horrors confront its hopefulness; its absurdities challenge its promise. A powerful, sustained lyrical and narrative sequence written in the midst of political and personal catastrophe (the second U.S. invasion of Iraq, a disastrous home fire, her own battle with lung cancer), Allen's last book of poems is at once a bonfire made up of the ruins of civilization, a call for one more effort to set things right, and a gift to us all from this fertile and generous writer.
Paula Gunn Allen, Laguna Pueblo/Sioux/Scots/Lebanese poet, philosopher, scholar, and teacher, was born in Cubero, New Mexico, in 1939. She received her doctorate from the University of New Mexico in 1976; her dissertation evolved into a major work of cultural criticism, The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions. Two volumes of her poetry, Skins and Bones and Life Is a Fatal Disease, were published by West End Press. She completed the manuscript for this book a week before her death on May 29, 2008 in Fort Bragg, California.