Kliatt Review - Blue Marrow

Reviewed by: James Beschta

The struggle of Native American peoples after the arrival of the Europeans is well documented, even in poetry. Yet Blue Marrow introduces a unique voice and perspective of this tension, one that is poignant and simultaneously reminiscent of all that is already familiar. 

In this haunting collection, Halfe brings to light the hypocrisy shaped by the conflict of Christianity and tradition. "Bless me father, I have killed a few white skins. / I didn't mean to. Forgive me father. I ask for absolution. / I promise to say my rosary and serve my time." Yet this book is focused on the plight of First Nations women, the irony of the religious clash being developed through their treatment at the hands of European men expounding a moral value system while imposing economic, social and sexual abuse. Halfe explores the matrilineal lines and spiritual relationships of generations, and the role of history is here presented by the spirits of grandmothers both specific and universal. "Bitterness / eats me. I left too early, / was with him for five winters / before the talk of going over the waters. / One night / I felt the axe. / I watched him / bury me."

The air of authenticity is increased by a chant-like style that runs throughout this collection, molding it into a moving sequence. The frequent use of Cree words, referenced in a glossary, demands a slow reading perfectly suited to the material while contributing to the tone. This book is unique, informative, artistic and memorable, a combination worthy of note.

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