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Crazy Horse & the Custers

by William Heyen (poet) & DeLoss McGraw (artist)

With 270 poems by William Heyen and 33 paintings by DeLoss McGraw this book is bold, unique, and enlightening. McGraw’s paintings are visionary and beautifully attuned to the spirit of Heyen’s extraordinary and often mystic poetry.

“...the collision of the two cultures at the climactic 1876 fulcrum battle is at the center of the history & the poetry of North America. Stillness & Electricity together know this, dream this, attempt to suggest by way of sound & concentrated story at least some small part of this.”

– Edwina Seaver

  • May 25, 2015 publication date
  • Hardcover format
  • 978-0-9858278-7-8ISBN-13
  • 192 pages
  • $39.95 price


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Author & Artist Bio

Heyen William Heyen lives in Brockport, New York. A former Senior Fulbright Lecturer in American literature in Germany, he has won prizes and awards from the NEA, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, and the American Academy & Institute of Arts & Letters. His poetry has appeared in The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Southern Review, American Poetry Review, and in hundreds of other periodicals and anthologies. His Crazy Horse in Stillness won the Small Press Book Award in 1997, Shoah Train: Poems was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2004, and A Poetics of Hiroshima was a Chautauqua Literary & Scientific Circle selection in 2010.
DeLoss McGraw currently lives in Southern Oklahoma and attends church in Dallas, Texas. He was raised in Eastern Oklahoma, earned degrees from Cal State University, Long Beach, and Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. He taught at Northern Kentucky College and the University of San Diego for a total of 12 years. He resigned in order to paint full-time in 1983. He is a literary artist and has had numerous solo exhibitions throughout the U.S. and Europe. He has been a muralist and an illustrator for Simon & Schuster and Harper Collins publishers, with several books winning awards. Two of his paintings have recently been acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.



“Each of the two sections of William Heyen’s Crazy Horse & the Custers opens with a poem set on the Great Plains millennia before humans appeared in the western hemisphere. [...] From then, the poems swirl in time always focused on the one moment of eternity—the battle at the Little Big Horn.

That one moment of American history, American mythology, American imagination becomes the portal through which we experience Heyen’s vision of America past and present. The battle at Little Big Horn is one of those events that defines our sense of America, but the definition is as shifting as the time element and portrayals in these poems. It is more than historical facts because the facts are different for whites and Native Americans. So it becomes a part of the myth of the Frontier and America’s destiny. Or a part of the myth of the dying sun and triumph of an alien force, which could be massacred in one battle but not defeated. Little Big Horn lives in the imagination, and this collection compels us into a vortex of William Heyen’s imagination.”
– Clarence Wolfshohl

“This is a special, powerful book. The old spirits don’t bother with just anyone; usually, poets who try to invoke the indigenous spirits of the Americas fall short. With Crazy Horse in Stillness, it’s as if the old spirits of the Great American Plains took possession of William Heyen and ‘rode’ his poetry on a journey of a thousand years into the past and into the future.”

TWO DECADES LATER… “Now the cycle of poems is complete and encompasses the history of the Americas. In Crazy Horse & the Custers, Bill Heyen’s poems flash across glimmering quantum plains to illuminate fierce truths about the invasion and the eventual retaking of the Americas. I smile every time I think of this book.”
– Leslie Marmon Silko

“A powerful book of poetry, showing that the imagining and reimagining still goes on.” – Larry McMurtry

“William Heyen is a remarkable poet. He writes with the wild, radiant audacity of the visionary; yet his eye and ear are sharp, unsparing. His Crazy Horse in Stillness is a fantastic meditation that only Heyen might have dared—lyric, tender, appalling, heart-rending, unique.” – Joyce Carol Oates

“Long before this new work I recognized Heyen as our century’s poet of memory and conscience. No reader of Crazy Horse in Stillness can fail to see how powerfully he keeps fulfilling that sacred mission.” – Aaron Kramer

Crazy Horse in Stillness is the sort of book which proves the effectiveness of poetry. Its brief, photographically precise poems say more about the parallel lives of Custer and Crazy Horse, two American warriors more often presented as icons than as men, than most of the many histories written about their times.” – Joseph Bruchac


The Tooth

After the beheading, they found
the one gold tooth in Custer’s mouth.
They propped open his jaws,

cut away his upper lip,
& stared into the tooth in firelight.
It was like a small television

tuned to the news, & a white man
in a white suit was already
stepping down onto the moon.

The Two Worlds

When mirage rivered above him, could he not believe?
In that sky, waterways coursed, herds returned
to infinite prairie forever. For once, let us become
this animal as it forms knee-deep in grass & flowers:

now, at last, we’ll bless that death enabling
our being here where we’re not light, & wind, & vapor,
but the source of these. Now, at last, we’ll believe
this dream dreaming us, & graze on Time.

Publisher of Fine Editions   |   Geoff Gronlund, Editor