Removal Acts (Paperback)
Drawing its title from the 1863 Federal Act that banished the Dakota people from their homelands, this remarkable debut collection reckons with the present-day repercussions of historical violence. Through an array of brief lyrics, visual forms, chronologies, and sequences, these virtuosic poems trace a path through the labyrinth of distances and absences haunting the American colonial experiment.
Removal Acts takes its speaker’s fraught methods of accessing the past as both subject and material: family photos, the fragile artifacts of primary documents, and the digital abyss of web browsers and word processors. Alongside studies of two of her Dakota ancestors, Lynch has assembled an intimate record of recovery from bulimia, insisting that self-erasure cannot be separated from the erasures of genocide. In these rigorous, scrutinizing examinations of “removal” in its many forms—as physical displacement, archival absence, Whiteness, and vomit—Lynch has crafted a harrowing portrait of the entwined relationship between the personal and historical. The result is a powerful affirmation of resilience and resolute presence in the face of eradication.
"Erin Marie Lynch’s debut poetry book, Removal Acts, is a deeply personal, formally inventive investigation into history, ancestry, and loss. . . . Throughout the work, Lynch’s language remains precise, compassionate, inquisitive, and vulnerable."—Mathangi Subramanian, BOMB Magazine
"Lynch interweaves the stories of two of her ancestors with her own recovery from bulimia to explore the twinned legacies of historical and self erasure. The result is a moving meditation on 'removal' in its many forms that melds together the personal and historical to craft a testament to Indigenous resilience and survival in the face of eradication."—Eliza Browning, Electric Literature
"Removal Acts is a rich and fraught collection that confronts the legacy of displacement and erasure with searing honesty. Debut author Erin Marie Lynch does not shy away from hard questions, including her right to some of the stories in her collection. . . . Removal Acts combines technical prowess and attention to craft with deliberate experimentation, signaling Lynch as a poet with talent that far surpasses expectations for a debut author."—Ronnie K. Stephens, The Poetry Question
"By compiling absences, silences, and censures, Lynch exposes the colossal scale of settler violence on the American continent. She wields punctuation marks—brackets, arrows, and spaces—like weapons."—Janani Ambikapathy, Harriet
"Erin Marie Lynch has crafted a triumph in Removal Acts. . . . We are asked to sit with ideas of privilege, generational trauma, personal desire, and forms of guilt as Lynch constructs her world around us."—Abigail Hebert, October Hill Magazine
"Removal Acts is braided and nonlinear in the best way, in which the violence of the past is negotiated, mediated, witnessed."—Denise Duhamel, Best American Poetry Blog
“I am astounded by this book and this poet, who offers us a reading experience unlike any other. Critical, capacious, and ingenious turn after turn, Removal Acts honors and embodies fraught complexities while maintaining keen aim and propulsive momentum. These poems are absolutely remarkable in their arrangements and conjurings; they add nuance and depth to my understanding of what it is to be alive as a permeable and striving self among selves. I read this book in one sitting, and when I reached the end, I wept—with gratitude, with awe. With Removal Acts, Erin Marie Lynch has given us a gift of extraordinary proportions. I look forward to learning from this collection’s rigorous heart and marvels of form for the rest of my life.”—Gabrielle Bates, author of Judas Goat
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