The Heart as a Drum

Continuance and Resistance in American Indian Poetry
Robin Riley Fast
An accessible introduction to a wide range of contemporary poetry by Native Americans


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.

Robin Riley Fast is Associate Professor of Literature, Emerson College.

Praise / Awards

  • "Contemporary Native American poetry has an important place in the literary canon. The Heart as a Drum is an important step toward opening the canon to a wider audience."
    —Joseph Bruchac
  • "The Heart as a Drum is a thoughtful and astute exploration of a broad range of contemporary Indian poets from Simon Ortiz to Chrystos, interwoven with commentary from Native authors and critics. Better yet, in an unusual gesture that acknowledges the ambiguity inherent in much Native literature, Robin Riley Fast invites and makes space for alternate readings. With this book, Fast opens a new and rich conversation about Native poetry."
    —Kimberly Blaeser, author of Trailing You and Gerald Vizenor: Writing in the Oral Tradition
  • "Ultimately, one comes away from The Heart as a Drum with a heightened awareness of what poetic language can and must do: heal, liberate, survive."
    —Dean Rader, University of San Francisco, MELUS, Vol. 27, No. (Fall 2002)
  • ". . . Fast shows her facility and broad knowledge of American Indian poetry and critical context."
    —P. Jane Hafen, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, MultiCultural Review, December 2000

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 264pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2000
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11077-3

Add to Cart
  • $84.95 U.S.