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Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce: A Poem

3.82  ·  Rating Details  ·  60 Ratings  ·  12 Reviews
Blue paper over boards backed with purple cloth, gilt letters. 64 pp.
Paperback, 64 pages
Published March 12th 1983 by Random House Inc (P) (first published 1983)
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The Iliad/The Odyssey by HomerThe Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. TolkienBeowulf by UnknownThe Odyssey by HomerThe Epic of Gilgamesh by Anonymous
World's Greatest Epics
115th out of 156 books — 82 voters
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee BrownBlack Elk Speaks by Black ElkLakota Woman by Mary Crow DogWhere White Men Fear to Tread by Russell MeansIn the Spirit of Crazy Horse by Peter Matthiessen
Native American Biography
78th out of 140 books — 68 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 144)
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Jan 22, 2015 Jimmy rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry-authors
One long narrative poem about Chief Joseph interspersed with quotes from documents and some of the players. The quotes were the best part of the book.

How do you write a poem better than this quote from the great Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce:

Tell General Howard I know his heart. What he told me before, I have in my heart. I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed. Looking Glass is dead. The old men are killed. It is the young men who say yes or no. Ollokot, who led the young men, is dead.
Jan 03, 2016 Gary rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics
I liked this poem and I've read later another of Warrens'. Namely, "All the Kings Men", which I didn't like much from the beginning, but I read a lot of classics and realize that the greatness in a book is not always highlighted in the early parts of a book. I live in Eastern Washington. And I do love the natural history of the native peoples who inhabited this region. Dr. Ruby who was a Native American author from Moses Lake, once said at the Adam East Museum here in town, "You might not like i ...more
May 28, 2011 Vasha7 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Robert Penn Warren prefers a rather anglo-saxon mode of poetry, rich in alliteration and epithet-nouns, with loosely structured sentences and gnarly, vigorous rhythms. It works well for this long narrative work, which resembles an epic in that it has battles and a long journey in it, but an unconventional epic, centered on a war-hero who all his life kept trying to live in peace. Then too, Warren's modernism shows in the device he uses of constantly inserting historical quotes. I haven't read mu ...more
Jan C
May 10, 2009 Jan C rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People interested in native american history and/or literature
Recommended to Jan C by: Kirsti
Shelves: drama, native
Robert Penn Warren's epic poem on Chief Joseph who is primarily remembered for the line "I will fihgt no more forever" and the epic chase he lead the cavalry on as he tried to escape from Winding Waters (Wallowa, WA) to Canada. So sad when they are taken by the white man who violates his word almost as quickly as it is given.

I have been reading stories about the native americans for years, once I got hooked on "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" which wasn't exactly objective from a historian's poi
Sep 05, 2008 Ben rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This epic poem recounts the rise and fall of Chief Joseph as the Nez Perce are forced out of their homeland of Wallawa and struggle to reach the border of Canada. The language is brilliant and the poet works with numerous historical approaches, using lastly a road trip with some old friends to juxtapose the battles of the past with modern uncertainties. Falling just shy of an alchemical significance the text is nevertheless one of ringing archetypes: the one-armed general, the quest for the scri ...more
Kevin Keating
Oct 13, 2015 Kevin Keating rated it really liked it
Fast and good read. Long poem about the travails of Chief Joseph, one of the saddest stories in the whole sordid history of my people. Really makes Sherman out to be a jerk. Along with Grant and most of the other Americans in any position of authority. Pretty empathetic rendering of the story.
May 21, 2007 Emily rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
After the completion of a World Religions class I took at Calvin, in which it was required to read [Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux] my interest in First Nations narratives has grown. Though there are many grand tales written from both Native American insiders and outside observers, I found that in most cases the stories themselves are more epic then the level of writing. Robert Penn Warren seems to fall in to this pattern as well, his pen barely does jus ...more
Robert Beveridge
Robert Penn Warren, Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce (Random House, 1983)

Warren's penultimate book of poetry, published as he was nearing eighty, is less something to be criticized or examined as it is to be learned from. Warren, seventy-five at the time of this long poem's writing, had been in the game for over a half century, had won the Pulitzer three times (as well as most other major prizes known to man), and was one of the last century's most influential writers on many fronts. Forget nitpick
Jori Richardson
Dec 03, 2012 Jori Richardson rated it really liked it
A short, yet powerfully tragic poem about the slaughtering of the Nez Perce tribe, and the disintegration of their sacred culture.
This poetry clearly portrays the rich culture and society of Native American Indians, and devastating historical events.
"Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce" was unexpectedly violent, and far more bloody than I would have anticipated for a poem.
However, this takes away none of its harsh and sad beauty.
A realistic, darkly beautiful work of poetry and American history.
Matt Ambs
The tragic tale of Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce, pursued by the cavalry and senselessly murdered and removed from Wallowa. One is struck by the poignancy of the words of Joseph and horrified at the sordid hearts of bureaucratic politicians. Though the ages have swallowed up and hidden the injustices of man from his children, the cry of Joseph will never fade away.
Apr 11, 2016 Jim rated it really liked it
A prose poem about the flight and noble but doomed resistance of Chief Joseph and his people after their ancestral lands were taken from them by the good ol' U.S. government.
Sep 05, 2015 Nettie rated it it was ok
infinitely sad and yet wonderful
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Robert Penn Warren was an American poet, novelist, and literary critic, and was one of the founders of New Criticism. He was also a charter member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers. He is the only person to have won Pulitzer Prizes for both fiction and poetry. He won the Pulitzer in 1947 for his novel All the King's Men (1946) and won his subsequent Pulitzer Prizes for poetry in 1957 and then ...more
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