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Review of M.L. Smoker’s: Another Attempt at Rescue

Another Attempt at Rescue. M L. Smoker ( Hanging Loose Press. 231 Wyckoff St. Brooklyn, NY 11217–2208) $14.

This is a first poetry collection by Native-American poet M.L. Smoker. ‘Hanging Loose,” the long-time publisher of the acclaimed Native-American writer Sherman Alexie, has a reputation of publishing an eclectic group of up and coming poets. In “Another Attempt At Rescue,” Smoker deals with one of the great themes of American literature. The assimilation into the mainstram society, and the pulls of the Old World. In this case M.L. Smoker feels the constant pull of the tribe,, the reservation; even when she is far from home. This is a struggle many an immigrant had to face. The same is true of native-Americans, whose land was taken for the price of cheap costume jewelry, or a treaty written in very small print. They found themselves foreigners in their own land. In her poem “Letter to Richard Hugo,” Smoker addresses the late poet with a love letter to her native land after a foray in the larger world: “ Dick: The resevoir on my end of the state is great for fishing. Some of the banks are tall and jagged, others are more patient,/ taking their time as they slope into rocky beaches/… I almost/ thought of not returning to finish the writing program/ you began with your own severe desire for language, But I/ did. And know I am at the end. Already though, I’ll admit/ to you, I’m thinking of home. I have been this whole/time.” (13).

In “Untitled,” I am reminded of Henry Roth’s character in “call It Sleep,” a small Jewish boy, and son of immigrants, who traverses the world of lyrical Yiddish to guttural English. Here Smoker seeks to reconcile her conflicted tongues to no avail: “ I witnessed a Grizzly bear tear into a fallen tree trunk/ with muscle, claw and all the force/ of her own body… I find that certain words arrive first:/ in the woods heavy with near darkness/ she could only be known by one name– wakan sija/ as in instinct: “the bad holy thing.”/ In this pasage that exists between word / and thought/ I have been forced/ to learn a great deal of the collapse/ of one language upon another./ I offer up many explanations for this/ too-often conflicted tongue, never/arriving at any shape of reconciliation.” (36).

What I like most about this collection is that Smoker makes the reader understand what she misses with vivid images, rich language, and real longing.