Select one of the keywords
Songs from a Yahi Bow: A series of poems on Ishi    by Scott Ezell, Yusef Komunyakaa & Mike O'Connor order for
Songs from a Yahi Bow
by Scott Ezell
Order:  USA  Can
Pleasure Boat Studio, 2011 (2011)
* * *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

When Ishi, 'the last wild American Indian,' came out of the mountains of Northern California in 1911, he created a sensation. His band of 20 had been able to live for at least 12 years without anyone knowing about their existence. Finally, only he was left. Despite his unthinkable losses of nation, territory, family and culture he was somehow able to adapt to a new kind of living, and the people around him remarked at how he accepted 'his final destiny with patience, good humor, and grace,' even though he was 'at the end of his existential rope.'

Songs from Yahi Bow is three poets' response to what Ishi and his life means. Mike O'Connor beautifully pictures Ishi's life for us, even providing a page of line-by-line translation of the poem Song of Ishi into Chinook Jargon. Yusef Komunyakaa's quatrains movingly describe Ishi's encounter with a modern city and its ways. And Scott Ezell's verses filter contemporary life through the wild man's sensibility.

Each poet shows great sensitivity to the contrast between what Ishi's life was and what it became. Ezell in particular, both in his verses and the introduction to this work, makes us understand that Ishi is not just a rare occurrence in Western life. His struggles are ones that all of us have: there are vanishing communities all around us, and the problem is that we are the authors of their demise and the poorer for such loss. I highly recommend this issue as a beautiful work for us to linger with, think about, and finally, act upon.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more NonFiction books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews