The Sky Was Once a Dark Blanket
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The Sky Was Once a Dark Blanket


Kinsale Drake

Selected by Jacqueline Allen Trimble

Title Details

Pages: 80

Trim size: 5.500in x 8.500in



Pub Date: 09/15/2024

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6730-9

List Price: $19.95

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The Sky Was Once a Dark Blanket


Kinsale Drake

Selected by Jacqueline Allen Trimble

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  • Description
  • Reviews
The Sky Was Once a Dark Blanket traverses the Southwest landscape, exploring intricate relationships between Native peoples and the natural world, land, pop culture, twentieth-century music, and multi-generational representations. Oscillating between musical influences, including the repercussions of ethnomusicology, and the present/past/future, the collection rewrites and rerights what it means to be Indigenous, queer, and even formerly-emo in the twenty-first century.
In The Sky Was Once a Dark Blanket, we travel across landscape, from Kayenta, Arizona, and Canyon de Chelly to New York nightclubs and Hollywood. In this world, we orbit seascapes, petroglyphs, and 'blood, ancestor, cloud.' In this world, we listen to country music and honor our mothers. In this world, we see a reflection of ourselves among the stars and remember that long ago Coyote rebelled once and created the night sky. And through this rebellion, we find—rising up the page—spine, song, smoke, corn, an everlasting tomorrow. This debut collection is a book of time, lineage, dreams, and all the cosmic beauty we hold in our 'language full of light.'

—Jake Skeets, author of Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers

In ‘spangled’ Kinsale Drake begins with ‘enough about you,’ and ends with ‘our song,’ a move that serves as pronouncement and portend of what is to come in the luminous The Sky Was Once a Dark Blanket, a collection which sings a lyrical, heartbreaking, and relentless song, weaving its own dark blanket out of politics, history, and family. Unabashedly Navajo, Drake tells a history that has been pushed to the periphery and centers a perspective often ignored or dismissed as inconsequential. And yet, the consequences of this erasure are at the forefront of the poet’s mind when she asks, ‘what do you call ancestral homestead/stopped like a kitchen sink/the water/of your people/redirected to ranches?’ The ferocity of the push back against this cultural violence is equaled by the beauty of poems which are as astonishing as they are seductive, announcing Drake as a literary force and, in the words of her ‘Wax Cylinder,’ ‘a woman remembering her place among the stars.’

—Jacqueline Allen Trimble, author of How to Survive the Apocalypse

These poems come at you with a million volts of every kind of verbal and poetic intelligence, illuminating every kind of love. Every kind of longing, joy, and drive toward justice, too. Each poem lights up a new terrain where human experience becomes a landmark for everyone we ever touch—ancestor, mother, family, lover, other—everyone who makes us who we become.

—Heid E. Erdrich, author of Little Big Bully

Only a few first books read like a dispatch from a generation. The Sky Was Once a Dark Blanket is one of them. Reading Drake’s poems will enlarge your emotional horizon. Clever and immediate, perceptive to the workings of language, these poems emerge as touchstones by which we read our boisterous love, our contradictions, our cloying despairs, which is to say, our humanity. Whether divining lost NDN jazz singers like Mildred Bailey or listening to the woundedness of our dreams, you will feel pierced by Drake’s vigor of mind and attuned heart, by poems that echo the sweetest songs heard on a local radio station where you are 'loved by radio waves.' Mark your calendar and raise a toast. You have in your hands the solution to your future.

—Major Jackson, author of Razzle Dazzle: New & Selected Poems

In poems spoken, sung, whispered, pulled from the archive, and etched into landscape, Kinsale Drake articulates the position of the poet as one who speaks and listens, and one who recognizes that these two states are mutually inextricable. From the songs of Mildred Bailey, to Indigenous voices captured and exploited by anthropologists and record labels ('Gramophones were weapons, swallowing / the dying songs / voices / are still muted / in the dust bowl / of those English libraries. // But her voice is clear / as the Chattahoochee, / wide and glittering'), to scratched CDs and mixtapes, to Fleetwood Mac records propped up 'like an altar,' to the shifting terrain of radio waves—the history and mechanisms of recording and listening appear in nearly every poem of The Sky Was Once a Dark Blanket. You won’t want to stop listening; and when you do, you will find your listening has changed. This is a stunning, formally inventive debut, one that traces a poet’s sensibility and sound inside histories of perseverance, erasure, influence, and joy.

—Emily Skillings, author of Fort Not

About the Author/Editor

KINSALE DRAKE (Diné) is a poet, playwright, and performer based out of the Southwest. She is a winner of the 2023 National Poetry Series. Her work has appeared in Poetry Magazine,, Best New Poets, Black Warrior Review, Nylon, MTV, Teen Vogue, Time, and elsewhere. She recently graduated from Yale University, where she received the J. Edgar Meeker Prize, the Academy of American Poets College Prize, the Young Native Playwrights Award, and the 2022 Joy Harjo Poetry Prize. She was named by Time Magazine as an artist representing her decade “changing how we see the world,” and is the founder of NDN Girls Book Club (