The Cherokee Lottery

Trade Paper – $16.95

ISBN 978-1-880684-66-5
Publication Date
May 2000
Page Count
72 pages
Trim Size
6.5 x 9

The Cherokee Lottery

A Sequence of Poems
William Jay Smith

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.

About the Author

William Jay Smith (born 22 April 1918) was an American poet. The author of ten collections of poetry, he was appointed the nineteenth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1968 to 1970. His work appeared in both Harper's Magazine and The New York Review of Books, and he was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters from 1975 until his death in 2015. 


"William Jay Smith has been one of our best poets for more than sixty years, and The Cherokee Lottery is his masterwork; taut, harrowing, eloquent, and profoundly memorable." —Harold Bloom

"[This] is a powerful collage of occasions having to do with the "removal" of the southern trives to the west, and each glimpse is made striking and poignant by the pen of William Jay Smith. The book tells much that I had not known, and tells it with compelling art." —Richard Wilbur

"[William Jay Smith's] exploration of a shameful episode in American history, in verse moved by irony and humor as well as by tragedy, is a major work by one of our most accomplished poets."—Daniel Hoffman