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America the Beautiful

These poems from the last decade of Paula Gunn Allen’s life capture the variety, ingenuity, and audacity of her work. According to Allen, what makes America beautiful may come as a surprise: its horrors confront its hopefulness; its absurdities challenge its promise. A sustained lyrical and narrative sequence written in the midst of political and personal catastrophe (the second U.S. invasion of Iraq, a disastrous home fire, her own battle with lung cancer), Allen’s book is at once a bonfire made up of the ruins of civilization, a call for one more effort to set things right, and a gift to us all from this fertile and generous writer.

Paula Gunn Allen was one of the most important voices in Native American Literature and Criticism. Her posthumous America the Beautiful is an eloquent and poignant tribute to the land and people she loved.

LaVonne Ruoff, Professor Emeritus, University of Illinois at Chicago