J. P. Dancing Bear

Billy Last Crow

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“Billy Last Crow speaks to us about the darkness of life on a reservation and the search for identity and tradition while struggling to survive and break through the day-to-day patterns of alcohol, violence, and poverty—the isolation in this wholly American-made landscape, which the white man had introduced into this spiritual terrain. It is a powerful work full of story and heart and spirit. I was instantly pulled into its weave.”

                        —Priscilla Lee, author of Wishbone






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“There is no facade in J.P. Dancing Bear's poetry. It's real. He brings open wounds, healed scars, hard-learned lessons, desperate despair, and unfaltering passion of the human condition into haunting portraits of modern life.The poems in Billy Last Crow retain accessibility while communicating in multi-levels. The warmth and vividness of the writing invites us to peer in the already open door and have a look around. We take the invitation and walk right in.Bear is a natural. He does what all good poets do—he makes us curious.”

                         —Dan Sicoli, poet and editor of Slipstream





What's been said about Billy Last Crow:

"Billy Last Crow is moving, eminently clear, deeply felt and raw. The horror of what Billy experiences is intermixed with a certain beauty which seems to rise, oddly and unexpectedly, from what is, so it seems to me, a tragic, uniquely American story. Noted Native American poet Bear conveys Billy Last Crow's alien and desperate experience as he struggles to overcome bigotry and labeling at the same time he must contend with the erosion of cultural identity and parental and other forms of loss."

                         —Robert Sward, author of Heavenly Sex and Rosicrucian in the Basement: Selected Poems










“Bear starts his series of poems with a boy 'Leaving Early'...It’s what we don’t yet know about the drama that intrigues us. We learn how the boy feels about, copes with, and eventually comes to terms with the hostility he encounters on and off the reservation. In the book’s most moving and tightly crafted poem, ('Comparing Bottles') Billy leaves 'the reservation / to breathe outside the cage, / outside the bottle of his father, / not to wear a white flag' only to find that 'the white walls of the office he worked in / were just labels on a different bottle, / the booze of money a little smoother / to swallow...' These poems go down easy, but the taste remains."

                        —Robert Funge, author of The Passage










The book forms, via episodic poetic moments of particular significance in the life/spiritual journey of one Billy Last Crow: A Native American. He suffers the indignation of being an original American and by that fact being outside of America. He is an other, an out of the law of the land and culture character. Throughout the poetry there is the self of this -other- seeking his self in a world that will not allow him (you) to be a full partner in it. Perhaps this is the real metaphor for living in America - the experience of always being outside of its vapid practice. But, nevertheless, somehow there are these wishes to be part of it, its all powerful, its seeming ability to envelop and contain everything - everything but you (the outsider self). Philosophical cultural stuff - Yeah? Yeah! It's here and not punching you in the face with its smartness. It just an IS thing. Here. However, as with all terrific poetry, the poetry also operates to allow Billy Last Crow to find himself in himself. It is, this book of poetry, many journies in one. It is an attractive book and the poems are highly refined. They are the craft. I am attracted to a poem called Billy Ghost Crow, where Billy, in the end, enters the Ghost, spiritual, world. He, I'd suggest, becomes the poet and, therefore, we learn the place of the poet in our culture, America, art, the Native and the outsider, and , all of this in milieu of century 21.
                             —Michael Basinski