Precise images open to piercing meditations of Shawnee history. In the present, a woman watches the approximation of a scalping at a theatrical presentation. Da’ writes, “Soak a toupee with cherry Kool-Aid and mineral oil. / Crack the egg onto the actor’s head. / Red matter will slide down the crown / and egg shell will mimic shards of skull.” This vivid image is paired with a description of the traditional removal path of her own Shawnee ancestors through small towns in Ohio.
These poems range from the Midwestern landscapes of Ohio and Oklahoma to the Pacific Northwest, and the importance of place is apparent. Tributaries simultaneously offers us an extended narrative rumination on the impact of Indian policy and speaks to the contemporary experiences of parenthood and the role of education in passing knowledge from one generation to the next. This collection is composed of four sections that come together to create an important new telling of Shawnee past and present.
"Da’ superbly tells the Shawnee story and powerfully testifies to the modern continuation of their rich heritage and oral tradition, proving that her culture is no graveyard of dust-coated clay shards, but rather a living story rooted in a deep past and ever-flowing into the future." —Booklist"Sit loose, this ride pivots! Tributaries unearths truths, splatters spectacle simmering on the searing trail Laura Da’ deftly ponies us through. Unglued and unforgettable, Da’ decolonizes American equilibrium. A searing debut!" —Allison Adelle Hedge Coke, author of Rock, Ghost Willow, Deer: A Story of Survivial
“In this exciting debut, Laura Da’ draws on her Shawnee ancestry and weaves historical narratives with alternate perspectives and voices to create a deeply resonant work. She has a gift for sharp visual images and similes, and these are tough, clear-eyed poems.” —Arthur Sze, author of Compass Rose
“Poets sometimes precede historians in voicing the stories brought to them through family tales, memories, and imagined lives. In this way, I believe Tributaries enhances historical knowledge, both in the Native American literary field and in general.” —Janice Gould, author of Doubters and Dreamers
“While the narrative in these poems impresses, Dá’s lyricism creates visceral scenes and images.”—Poetry Northwest
“In poems that intertwine personal memoir, familial past, traditional Shawnee storytelling, and the history of Indian Removal, Da’ sifts through the painful records of Shawnee life under U.S. colonial power to remind us that archives, too, can come “glistening into the present.” —The Iowa Review
“Tributaries is filled with evocative storytelling, rich images, and an affecting depiction of recent Shawnee history. Laura Da’s book makes vivid and intimate a past that, up until this point has been distant.” —The Volta Blog