Little Big Bully (Penguin Poets) (Paperback)

Little Big Bully (Penguin Poets) By Heid E. Erdrich Cover Image
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Winner of the 2022 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry

In a new collection that is "a force of nature" (Amy Gerstler), renowned Native poet Heid E. Erdrich applies her rich inventive voice and fierce wit to the deforming effects of harassment and oppression.

Little Big Bully begins with a question asked of a collective and troubled we - how did we come to this? In answer, this book offers personal myth, American and Native American contexts, and allegories driven by women's resistance to narcissists, stalkers, and harassers. These poems are immediate, personal, political, cultural, even futuristic object lessons. What is truth now? Who are we now? How do we find answers through the smoke of human destructiveness? The past for Indigenous people, ecosystem collapse from near-extinction of bison, and the present epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women underlie these poems. Here, survivors shout back at useless cautionary tales with their own courage and visions of future worlds made well.

About the Author

Heid E. Erdrich is the author of seven collections of poetry. Her writing has won fellowships and awards from the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Bush Foundation, the Loft Literary Center, and First People's Fund, and she has twice won a Minnesota Book Award for poetry. She was also the editor of the 2018 anthology New Poets of Native Nations, which was the recipient of an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation and a Midwest Booksellers Choice Award. Erdrich works as a visual arts curator and collaborator, and as an educator. She teaches in the low-residency MFA creative writing program of Augsburg University and is the 2019 distinguished visiting professor in the liberal arts at the University of Minnesota, Morris. Erdrich grew up in Wahpeton, North Dakota, and is Ojibwe enrolled at Turtle Mountain. She lives in Minneapolis.

Praise For…

Praise for Little Big Bully:

“The poems [in Little Big Bully] flow across a range of exigent challenges facing Native Americans, particularly women, and Erdrich takes full advantage of the wide format of this book. Many of the pieces are enriched by the author’s dramatic use of extra spaces and broken lines . . . [Erdrich has] remarkable power.” —Ron Charles, The Washington Post

“Erdrich writes across the breadth of the U.S.’s collective history with Indigenous peoples using historical terminology that reaches into the heart of tribal sovereign existence. Yet there is the underlying awareness that Indigenous nations maintain a unique history and have tribal narratives that shape their lives. Her poems are lyrical, visual and, at times, achingly personal.—Jury Citation for the 2022 Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry

“A major collection by a writer who deserves an audience a big as the light she’s throwing off . . . Little Big Bully cycl[es] into private moments, public grief, purposefully erased history and Native politics. [Erdrich] finds ways to still chevron the mind sky with wonder . . . The improvisational torque of Little Big Bully means the book is always moving, into imagined story cycles, love poems, riffs, prose poems so vital it feels like they’ve burst free of punctuation, rather than eschewed it for style.” LitHub

“The Indigenous body, the woman body, the missing body, are all landscape in these powerful, provocative, and limit-breaking poems. In a world where femicide runs rampant, Erdrich’s poems bellow—Don’t look away. Enough. Enough. These poetic worlds carve new futures where healing, love, family, and self-sovereignty exist.” Orion Magazine

“A ceaseless innovator . . . With incisive intelligence and revelatory wordplay, Erdrich examines the mechanisms of abuse, from colonizers who grabbed land to contemporary men who grab women’s bodies.” —(Minneapolis) Star-Tribune
Little Big Bully is richly challenging and uniquely rewarding . . . it is remarkable precisely because it posits the act of speaking, of how you learn it is you say, as a liberatory practice: the difficult action that will project us—as well as these poems—into a different and less abusive future together.” Ploughshares

“[Little Big Bully] overlaps personal and political concerns in Ojibwe wordplay. Despite colonial abuse, ecosystemic collapse, and witnessing the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women, Erdrich’s wit, heart, and tenacity shines through.” —

“[Erdrich] turns to poetry for resilience, using well-crafted imagery, finely tuned language and sharp humor to navigate both stories of individual abuse and systemic oppression . . . ultimately reminding readers that caring for ourselves gives us the strength to care for others.” High Country News

“[Little Big Bully] is laced with dark humor and shines with incisive wit.” Electric Literature

“[Erdrich] writes with an eye for detail and an attention to how language can both reveal and conceal truth . . . [Little Big Bully] models how to stand, see and be seen, and resist.” Poets & Writers

“Renowned poet Heid E. Erdrich takes on environmental destruction, missing and murdered Indigenous women and more, in her characteristic voice: fierce, witty, personal and political.” Ms. Magazine
Little Big Bully holds itself with a steady gaze, feet shoulder width apart. Positioned and ready, it is unflinchingly honest. Traversing a wide landscape—both the personal interior and social exterior—this book is made to confront, without the usual trappings of confrontation. How is that possible? There are ‘conversations’ to address concerns familiar to the Native community, specifically; at other times, poems directly address non-Native readers and public consciousness. Along the way, Erdrich connects the global project of colonialism with the feminine, the woman’s body, the woman’s experience, the ‘bloody burning work’ of her negation and violation. It’s seamless. All this, and still, this book holds in its heart the limitless expanse of love and tenderness, and honestly so. Erdrich writes, ‘This is not my grief […] but a terrible a particular / deep beyond belief / deep enough / to own its depth / to be depth alone.’ Through Erdrich, I have come to understand that it’s not her grief, but ours, shared. Experienced together beyond belief.” —Layli Long Soldier, author of Whereas

“This book broke me open. It electrified me and made my hair stand on end, tingling on my head like a mob of hypersensitive antennae. Whence came, or should I say, whence erupted, this gorgeous mind firing on all cylinders? Who is this poet orchestrating fierce musics of fragmentation and purifying anger? Behind her pitch perfect dark wit, fearless urgency and lively invention is a writer who dares to address our many selves (racial, sexual, spiritual) and their attendant assumptions. With great ardor, she captures bright, fractious, whirling bits of us, truths and contradictions, and channels them into poems that become a force of nature, like winged migration, or river rapids. This book that asks, among other amazing questions, what the most just and loving forms of self-sovereignty might look like, and what it might feel like to try to live them.” —Amy Gerstler, author of Scattered at Sea

Praise for New Poets of Native Nations:

“A wonderful introduction to the diverse landscape of native voices.”
The Washington Post

“This collection is a breathtaking, wide-ranging work of art. . . . It is a modern classic.”

“A revelatory anthology.”
BBC Culture

“[New Poets of Native Nations] is distinctly contemporary in its urgency, diversity and vibrancy.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune

“This book is a wonderful, needed, vital breath of air. . . . New Poets of Native Nations is a wonderfully conceived collection, full of exciting juxtapositions, rich language and a fine equipoise between generosity and restraint. It’s safe to say New Poets of Native Nations is an essential read.”
Paste Magazine

Product Details
ISBN: 9780143135920
ISBN-10: 0143135929
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: October 6th, 2020
Pages: 112
Language: English
Series: Penguin Poets