Glancy (Trigger Dance, 2015, etc.) contemplates history and culture in this new collection of poems.
The impetus for this book, as Glancy explains early on, was a trip she took in spring 1994 through Syria and Jordan on behalf of the U.S. Information Agency. A cultural ambassador of sorts for the U.S., she confronted the depth of the history that surrounded her: “Standing at the ruins of Ebla in Syria, there was an older old than any of the history I knew in America.” The author’s travels in the Levant forced her to consider the disconnect she felt between the Holy Land of the Christian Bible—a place so revered by Americans—and the modern Muslim nations that Americans regard with such suspicion. These Syria and Jordan poems sit side by side with others set in North Dakota, Arizona, New Hampshire, and elsewhere in the U.S., in which Glancy examines her personal history as well as her own cultural background as a Native American. As the poet writes, “You know how seeing another country / makes you see your own / and you know how America’s eye is always on itself.” The second section of the book revisits the Syria of recent years, ruminating on how the holy desert of Glancy’s travels has become a conflagration of violence and inhumanity. In these poems, she mourns the loss of the people and places she saw in 1994, wondering what has become of them: “I thought of the dyer of blue cloth in Damascus / … / What happened to the patterns and jars of blue? / The maker of them?” The work moves back and forth between narrative verse poems and contemplative prose poems, tackling complex ideas from multiple angles. The result is a book that is both analytical and lyrically satisfying, a profound meditation on the nature of nationhood, history, and the narratives readers allow themselves to live in. The question Glancy poses in the title poem is as true of America as it is of Syria: “What can be trusted to be true / in the complexities of a country at war with itself?”
A thoughtful and often beautiful volume of poetry that explores the Middle East and America.