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Details Of The Book Fire Power

Fire Power


91 ratings - 4.37* vote

"This book is a gun aimed at the 'american canon'; it is also about seeing my situation as a First Nations Two-Spirited Lesbian as fire & power which can help heal our mother". -- Chrystos. "This book is a gun aimed at the 'american canon'; it is also about seeing my situation as a First Nations Two-Spirited Lesbian as fire & power which can help heal our mother". -- Chrystos.

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Book details

Paperback, 131 pages
October 1st 1995 by Press Gang Publishers

(first published 1995)

Original Title
Fire Power
088974047X (ISBN13: 9780889740471)
Edition Language

Community Reviews

Tallon Kennedy

Chrystos-- oh, Chrystos. Her poems are so beautifully crafted and she writes with a fire against the occupation of indigenous lands, situating her Two-Spirited love as a resistance to settler-colonialism. She also writes through a lot of her own personal traumas here, including both parental abuse and mental institutionalization. One of the most beautiful and painful poems in this book is one in which she recalls some of the friends she made in the psych ward, in one case a lover, recounting the abuses they endured, wondering where they are now, and writing that these womens' love for one another became further proof that they were "crazy." Incredible collection of poetry. A-


as always, chrystos gives you the gutpunch of viewing this world's fuckery with sharp clarity, and the huge vastness of the embrace of queer love & comradeship. the poem they dedicated to mab segrest made me bust out crying at the possibilities of closeness and care and patience across these huge gulfs of power & violence in our names as white women. the hugeness of compassion chrystos has, while holding to their righteous anger. they floor me & i am in awe & so grateful for the mirror they hold to me.


Chrystos--Native American, lesbian, and political poet--packs a lot of power and fire into this collection. She positions herself against the status quo, whether it exists in hierarchies of economics, academics, race, gender, and sexuality, and her position is evident in content as well as style. For an example of content, some of her titles provide a clue: "Going Into the Prison," "Bitter as the Pockmarked Streets," "The Man Who Had a Lobotomy," "Unsettling Poetry," "Hissing He Called Me a Witch," "Worrying About How to Pay All My Bills," "Why Indian Unemployment is So High," and "Crazy Horse."

As for style, many of her poems read like lineated prose--casual, conversation-like, which I take to be a critique of stylized and elitist language in poetry. Almost all of her poems lack punctuation aside from the occasional comma, creating a murmuring effect reminiscent of Lucille Clifton. My favorite poem of this collection, "Crazy Horse," an apostrophe to Crazy Horse occasioned while ironing a Crazy-Horse-brand shirt, twice omits syntactical markers ("I could dampen this shirt with my tears / I could burn for hours before your name / still not cleanse this hatred" and "Names are sacred / they know that / Their copyright laws hungry with it") for an effect that's emotive, not coolly rational.

Overall, I enjoy the book for its style and its content, and for its "hell yeah!" qualities--for the way that simply articulating some awful stuff is a kind of triumph over oppression. However, I have mixed feelings about the short essay that ends the collection, "Gathering Words." At one point, she writes, "A long time ago, a famous writer told me that my poem 'I Walk in the History of My People' was not poetry because it was too political. I assert that poetry without politics is narcissistic & not useful to us. I also believe that everything is political--there is no neutral, safe place we can hide out in waiting for the brutality to go away." Yes: everything is political, including unconscious habits that enable, reproduce, and perpetuate oppression. (For example, a recent issue of Cosmo provides an example of women sitting back from the table at a business meeting, reluctant to move forward--maintaining a posture of passivity, submission.) But I don't think poetry's first responsibility should be political; poetry's first responsibility should be poetry, craft; after that, let it do whatever it does. Let the audience read the politics into it.


Local Seattle poet Chrystos delivers poems that are political, funny, sexy, and straightforward. Her voice is smart and very sharp. Her poems are usually short and to the point, with each word carefully chosen and usually in an observational vein. I especially like her poems on the ways that institutions can forget the individuals they serve.

Trae Banuelos

Chrystos has such a powerful domination over words. This book is one I feel that can remind those of us who have experienced trauma our agency. We can and are surviving. Their words are poignant and strong. Take your time with this and let it sit next to you.


Poetry that is sharp because of it's timelessness.
cutting through to the truth of ourselves
I love the use of queer language.


vulnerable, powerful, political


Chrystos is a Native American activist and poet. Her poems are raw expressions of pain, healing and survival. They touch personal and political relms and are awe-inspiring in many ways.


potent poetry. there is some good stuff in here. just be ready for some evocative and sexy language.