(Masterpieces of American Literature)

“Jacklight,” the opening and title poem in Erdrich’s first book of verse, is a haunting dramatization of male-female and of white-Indian relations. The poem begins with an epigraph citing that “the same Chippewa word is used both for flirting and for hunting game,” so that the encounter between hunters and animals enacted in the poem is also an allegory for sexual gamesmanship between men and women. The title refers to an artificial light, such as a flashlight, used in hunting or fishing at night. This detail, along with a number of others, suggests that the poem is also an allegory of an encounter between white and Indian cultures. Erdrich does not indicate whether the male hunters in the poem are white or Indian, but in either case their equipment and character traits clearly suggest aggressive and exploitative aspects of white culture.

The poem begins not with the hunters going into the woods, but with the animals coming out—perhaps because of their curiosity, flirtatiousness, or trusting openness:

We have come to the edge of the woods,out of brown grass where we slept, unseen,out of knotted twigs, out of leaves creaked shut,out of hiding.

In these lines and throughout the poem, Erdrich’s use of assonance and consonance (such as “Out of brown” and “knotted...

(The entire section is 520 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

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Coltelli, Laura. “Louise Erdrich and Michael Dorris.” In Winged Words: American Indian Writers Speak. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990.

Erdrich, Louise. “Where I Ought to Be: A Writer’s Sense of Place.” The New York Times Book Review 91 (July 28, 1985): 1, 23-24.

Erdrich, Louise. “The Writing Life: How a Writer’s Study Became a Thing with Feathers.” The Washington Post Book World, February 15, 2004, 13.

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Meadows, Susannah. “North Dakota Rhapsody.” Newsweek 141, no. 8 (2003): 54.

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Sarris, Greg, et al., eds. Approaches to Teaching the Works of Louise Erdrich. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2004.

Stookey, Loreena Laura. Louise Erdrich: A Critical Companion. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1999.