Cover image for The Cherokee lottery : a sequence of poems
The Cherokee lottery : a sequence of poems
Smith, William Jay, 1918-2015.
Publication Information:
Willimantic, CT : Curbstone Press, 2000.
Physical Description:
97 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3537.M8693 C47 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



For the first time in poetic form, The Cherokee Lottery treats one of the greatest tragedies in American history, the forced removal of the Southern Indian tribes east of the Mississippi. When gold was discovered on Cherokee land in northern Georgia in 1828, the U.S. Government passed the Removal Act, and 18,000 Cherokees, along with other southern tribes--Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Creeks--were forcibly relocated to Oklahoma territory. Herded along under armed guard, they traveled in bitter cold weather and as many as a quarter died on what became known as "The Trail of Tears."

In powerful poetry of epic proportions, which Harold Bloom has called his best work, Smith paints a stark and vivid picture of this ordeal and its principal participants, among them Sequoyah, the inventor of the Cherokee alphabet, and Osceola, the Seminole chief.

Author Notes

William Jay Smith was born in Winnfield, Louisiana on April 22, 1918. He received bachelor's and master's degrees in French literature from Washington University in St. Louis and did graduate work at Columbia University and Oxford University. During World War II, he served with the Navy in the Pacific.

During his lifetime, he wrote several collections of poetry including The Tin Can, and Other Poems; Plain Talk: Epigrams, Epitaphs, Satires, Nonsense, Occasional, Concrete and Quotidian Poems; The World Below the Window: Poems, 1937-1997; and The Cherokee Lottery. He also wrote a memoir entitled Army Brat and several collections of children's poems including Boy Blue's Book of Beasts and Ho for a Hat! He was the consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress from 1968 to 1970. He died on August 18, 2015 at the age of 97.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Smith's sequence of moving, extraordinarily visual poems brings us to the heart of one of the nation's greatest tragedies and, many say, sins--the "removal" of the five civilized tribes, via the Trail of Tears, from their homelands in the eastern U.S. to the Oklahoma territory. Part Choctaw himself, Smith uses several different voices in the sequence, such as those of an old Choctaw on the trail, remembering the "buzzard man" who presided over funeral rites, while mourning the many who died without such appropriate ritual; the great Choctaw chief, Pushmataha, who traveled to Washington in a failed attempt to gain a hearing for his people; and artist Charles Banks Wilson, sketching the last of the purebloods in the melting pot of Oklahoma. Many of the poems appear in the book's signature stanza, a lopey, three-line, roughly pentametric form that sounds sometimes reportorial, sometimes Shakespearean, sometimes both at once. Moving, humane, unforgettable. --Patricia Monaghan

Library Journal Review

Arranged in six sections, Vega!s 12th book of poems provides an in-depth tour of her poetic oeuvre. Each section echoes Vega!s recurrent themes: nature, death, prisoners, family history, and travels in Ireland and in South America. This collection, like many of the individual poems in it, could have used some editorial winnowing. Though Vega often shows a deftness of touch and a keen ear for language, the shorter poems are more powerful: dear butter/ your blues/ your mouth harp sweet/ chicago/ winter nights. In poem after poem, Vega shows herself to be an adept poet of place"as in the title poem, which describes a cafe in Les Halles: after a night we could find the strong/ men from the market/ and the beautiful prostitutes/ resting in each other!s arms/ Le Chat Qui PIche, Le Chien Qui Fume/ alive with Parisian waltzes, his hands on her ass. Unfortunately, when Vega tackles political issues, polemics dominate: Dear Nuclear Commission: Don!t you have children?/ Or grandchildren? What about them? But when she writes from the heart"as in To You on the Other Side of This, a love poem to a murdered son as well as a battle cry of anger directed at his killer"we are immediately drawn in. Recommended for larger poetry collections and all academic ones."Doris Lynch, Monroe Cty. P.L., Bloomington, IN (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Journey to the Interior
The Eagle Warrior: An Invocation
The Cherokee Lottery
The Trail
The Talking Leaves: Sequoyah's Alphabet
Old Cherokee Woman's Song
The Crossing
The Pumpkin Field
The Buzzard Man
Christmas in Washington with the Choctaw Chief
At the Theater: The Death of Osceola
The Players
The Choctaw Stick-Ball Game
Song of the Dispossed
The Buffalo Hunter
Sitting Bull in Serbia
The Burning of Malmaison
The Artist and His Pencil: A Search for the Purebloods
Full Circle: The Connecticut Casino
Acknowledgments and Notes
Picture Credits