Diane Glancy’s Island of the Innocent explores the “Book of Job with poems and poetic prose until the fissures” appear. Other times and places bleed into the story, including the United States’ Indian eradication efforts in the nineteenth century. What first appears to be made up of two independent narratives becomes a clear dialogue of parts in proximity to one another. A moving testament to the creative act of enduring, Glancy’s hybrid collection emphasizes the shadow speak of history, memory, and trauma as legacy.
As the speaker in “Dormer” says, “I don’t care about trouble. / I care about trouble more than anything.” The stories of Native Americans and the biblical Job interlock around their mutual trouble, sharing themes of suffering, betrayal, accusation, and doubt. Above all, questions of innocence circle like vultures. Thus, Job sits on a hacienda surrounded by vituperative friends as Satan wheels like a helicopter above the clouds. Thus, the bones of children are still being returned from the Carlisle Indian Industrial School.
Throughout, Christianity plays a role—as a story, testimony, and European cultural vehicle used to “civilize” Native people. Christianity’s emphasis on the written word refracts through Glancy’s approach to writing as a “sufficiency of gap-work.” As she creates an intertext between the book’s themes, a meta-praxis emerges that interrogates poetry, the written word, and the origins of the English language itself. Their stability and authority blur as Glancy gets to the “squeaking of these words past their meanings. A pretend face in a papier-mâché mask or the mask of the Lone Ranger.”
For Glancy and Job, there’s a stark demarcation, a personal-historical before and after period to their lives. Haunted by memory, history, and their collective multiplicity, both are survivors of a singular experience and must reckon with their invisible, fractured legacies.
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