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One Stick Song

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The dark humor, deep feeling, and supple style which have distinguished Sherman Alexie’s novels and short stories about Native American experience in the United States are present in an especially forceful manner in One Stick Song, a collection of poems that function as a personal memoir that recollects and comments on his life as a Spokane/Coeur d’Alene Indian in contemporary America. Capitalizing on the possibilities for a multiplicity of expressive modes that a collection of poems affords, Alexie offers both a singularly personal and dauntingly candid vision of Indian society while recalling close friends and members of his family whose lives augment and personify the patterns he identifies.

The poems in the book are bracketed by two extended autobiographical fragments, “The Unauthorized Biography of Me” which conveys the content of Alexie’s mind and spirit through the tone of its idiosyncratic observations, and “Sugar Town,” which is a lament for and tribute to his father, as well as a meditation on his own growth toward maturity. Within this flexible frame, Alexie effectively uses a wide range of poetic forms to establish a recognizable, singular voice: Essentially laconic, but capable of considerable passion; generally poised but sometimes very vulnerable; wary in anticipation of insults and rebuffs without closing contact with the world. Alexie often speaks with his own version of a contemporary American vernacular, characteristically in an expressionistic narrative called “The Warriors” which begins, “I hate baseball,” and combines incidents from his youth with pointed, cogent cultural analysis. This...

(The entire section is 393 words.)