The Heart as a Drum celebrates poetry by a range of contemporary Native American writers, illuminating the poets' shared commitments and distinctive approaches to political resistance and cultural survival. The poetry reflects an awareness of the divisions and conflicts inherited from colonization and a commitment to traditional beliefs about the relatedness of all beings. This double perception engenders poetry that emphasizes resistance and continuance and poetry that makes creative and unique use of language. The book elucidates these aspects of the work through cultural and historical readings of poetry written by both urban- and reservation-identified Indians from varied geographic and tribal origins.
The book's focus is on the major themes in contemporary Native American literature: community and audience, the meanings of place and history, spiritual experiences, the nature of language, and the roles and varieties of storytelling. The poets whose works are discussed include Sherman Alexie, Joy Harjo, Maurice Kenny, Simon J. Ortiz, Wendy Rose, Elizabeth Woody, and Ray Young Bear.
The first critical book dedicated to contemporary Native American poetry, The Heart as a Drum will be useful to students, teachers, and critics of American Indian cultures and literatures, and to all readers of contemporary American poetry.