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Slaves of the Harvest
by Doug Draime
Chapbook format, Seventh Reprint (2002), pp.34.
Published by Indian Heritage Council (P.O. Box 2302, Morristown, TN 37816, USA)
In a light tan colour, with big black bold lettering, Doug Draime’s chapbook Slaves of the Harvest, appeared in a small pile of mail some months ago and I am grateful that a copy made its way to me. Infused with a hunger for justice, Doug rips out sections of history that many a right-wing poet and scholar would prefer to flick past with rose-tinted specs, and targets events and personalities alike which have impacted heavily upon the native American people and their respective livelihood and culture.
His opening piece, ‘Poems And Worship’, reveals the direction and perspective that Doug pursues in his art, where ‘...poems must be like axes in the forest of society’s insanity...’ Following this, he reveals much of the insanity that prevails within western society and warns the reader:
...we worship the corporations which pollute our air
we worship the doctors who perpetuate our diseases
we worship betrayal
we worship the Big Bomb
we worship fear
we worship nothing that is essential in this country...
A poem, indeed, cutting through to issues that people generally prefer to ignore or avoid, or sweep under the rug and truth like this - as Shaw says – is often ‘too true to be good’ when directed towards the ignorant and complacent. In opening with a poem like this, Draime is not afraid to reveal his politics and viewpoint and appears quite happy to stand alone, away from the poetry mainstream of saying nothing and giving up entirely to form.
In ‘Positions’, Doug pulls a near-genocidal history uncomfortably close to a reflection on his own childhood, where he observes in the backyard of his family home:
...a wheat mill
a slaughterhouse
a John Deer tractor outlet
a Dairy Queen
& they say
a dead Cherokee lynched
& burned
& buried
a rock garden just
30 years before.
The ghosts of injustice appear to be haunting throughout the entire chapbook, where the future of a displaced people is left uncertain and standing before a diseased western society that continually encroaches on the remnants of a people attempting to preserve what remains of their culture.
Further into this fine chapbook, the poem ‘Going Back On Election Day’ reinforces ‘Positions’ with three stanzas depicting an orator giving a political address on election day that reeks of nationalism. In the crowd, and armed with his own understanding of the past, Doug is observing how the orator is trying to win political support, while his elevated platform from where he speaks ‘ made from the bodies of Indian / Families...the entire U.S. Army against Indian families.’ This stanza in the poem reminds the reader how it is the victorious who write their own misconstrued histories – winning a popular appeal while concealing a disgusting policy of annihilation and disregarding those victims with their own story to tell - if they were still alive to tell it and to hand it down for those future generations susceptible to the misleading histories endorsed by the State.
In his chapbook Doug, like other decent poets out there, has seen how important poetry and art in general can be to give voice for those who can no longer speak.
Let this continue...
--Review by Brad Evans