(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

The four sections of She Had Some Horses—“Survivors,” “What I Should Have Said,” “She Had Some Horses,” and “I Give You Back”—are arranged so that each succeeding one informs and evokes the others. This structure allows Harjo to build upon key words and phrases, central motifs, and visceral images whose individual power is amplified because of the resonances shared with other poems in the book. Harjo’s focus often revolves around wild nature, colors, animals, seasons, weather, a blighted urban landscape—the elements that provide the recurring images and controlling tone of these poems. Harjo uses these motifs to reflect the driving moods, needs, and sorrows of her self-identification as American Indian as well as of the displacement of those contemporary Indians painfully lost in urban landscapes or out of step with their own culture. These poems not only reflect Harjo’s personal battles with alienation, sorrow, loneliness, and betrayal but also explore these issues as they are reflected in the lives of others, people who have been victims in circumstances similar to those that have oppressed her, her people, and the cultures of all American Indians.

Noni Daylight is a typical Harjo persona, through whom Harjo can examine the disjuncture between the traditions of the persona’s tribal past, the unfulfilled rootedness implied by that past, and the impossible difficulties facing American Indians who move within the dominant Anglo culture of the American cityscape. Like the unnamed voices of poems such as “Anchorage,” “Remember,” and “Drowning Horses,” Noni Daylight struggles with her fears, isolated in an Anglo city. She watches trains rumble through town in “Kansas City” in ”Heartbeat,” she chooses self-destructive behavior and flight by frequenting Albuquerque bars, taking drugs, and finally driving all night waiting for a cleansing “fierce anger/ that will free her.” Finally, in “She Remembers the Future,” Noni addresses her “otherself,” evidently looking for an answer that will provide the...

(The entire section is 850 words.)