‘Little Big Bully’ explores abuse and victimhood

Speaking up about abuse can be a solution, Erdrich said.

Anneliese Schneider

Heid Erdrich, the university’s 2021 Glasgow distinguished writer in residence, read her re- cent poetry and discussed narratives of abuse and witness in a Feb. 8 virtual talk.

“Little Big Bully,” her eighth poetry collec- tion, was published last year and won the Na- tional Poetry series.

“[This book] deals with the techniques of abusers, used on all of us by public figures, on social media, to one another,” Erdrich said.

She said the book was a way of thinking through her “concerns about how people fight with each other, especially on social media.” She said she reflected on how poeple she knew trusted narcissits and accepted them as legitimate leaders and speakers in our country.

She also discussed the lessons she learned in writing the book.

“What I think I learned in the end is that a bully is made by another bully and so on back as far as it goes,” she said. “As important to the action of the bully is the person who doesn’t dominate other people but promotes and upholds that person.”

Erdrich said the solution is to see abuse clearly and to speak out.

“I could bring rawness as witness,” she said. “Sometimes the only way to defend ourselves is to speak, clearly and fully, of what has hap- pened to us.”

But Erdrich resists the traditional narratives of victimhood.

“It seems like American literature is full of forcing us to recite our victimhood, but I didn’t want to do that,” she said. “It robs us of our sovereignty, our ability to move beyond that status and not be defined or marketed by it.”

Part of her inspiration was political.

Erdrich said she found herself moved by events happening around the country, like the 2016 Dakota Access Pipeline protest. Though she tried to bring a certain sense of humor to discussing American politics, the attacks on protesters at that demonstration provoked a much deeper response.

“These things just broke my long-held passivism,” she says. “And that was really a painful moment, when I realized that I would actually fight.”