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Written from a contemporary Cherokee, Queer, and mixed-race experience, Walking with Ghosts: Poems confronts the legacy of land-theft, genocide, and forced removal of Cherokees from their homelands while simultaneously resisting ongoing attacks on both Indigenous and Gay/ Lesbian/ Bisexual /Transgender (GLBT) communities. The debut work of Qwo-Li Driskill, a young Cherokee poet also of African, Irish, Lenape, Lumbee, and Osage ancestries, these poems move across Cherokee history. From the infamous Trail of Tears and the Allotment Act to the Indian boarding school system and contemporary manifestations of racism, these poems reach into Cherokee collective memory asking its readers to not only remember the history of colonization, but also the survival and continuance of Indigenous Nations. With this collection Driskill, who identifies as Queer as well as Two-Spirit (a contemporary term used in North American Indigenous communities to describe diverse sexual and gender identities) becomes one of only a few of American Indian Queer/Two-Spirit male writers in print. Refusing to compromise identities, Driskill also grapples with the impact of hate crimes on GLBT communities, multiracial and multi-tribal identity, the AIDS crisis, psychic trauma, and war. Yet the poems in this collection are rooted in a sense of love and the power of words to heal the legacies of colonization and other forms of violence. Cherokee love poems weave into eulogies to the dead while ghosts draw the living into a place of wholeness. Tender, startling, confrontational and erotic, this book honors the dead and brings the survivors back home.
‘Qwo-Li Driskill’s poetry, part lament and part manifesto, is haunted by ghost dancers. It is a record of those we’ve lost to the irrational hatred and fear of racism and homophobia. The voice within these poems chants, croons, sasses, and sings, for this is poetry meant to be spoken into being. In the tradition of other queer, socially-conscious poets, like Chrystos, Pat Parker, and Audre Lorde, the question of whether justice exists for all – especially for the poorest and most despised among us – burns at the center of this fine first collection.’ —Janice Gould
‘My favorite lines in the collection mark the occasion of Ronald Reagan’s death: ‘Say it: we’re not sad to see him go. No one I know shed a single/tear for his passing.’ This is a reminder that not all of us are willing to go gentle into that good night as America wages its fight to the finish against our world. Now, more than ever, as the White House manufactures some of the news we watch on TV, we need poems, these and others, that contest the official story.’ —Craig S. Womack