Remember Poem By Joy Harjo Essay
“My House” comes from the exemplary (1989), which pairs her writing with Stephen Strom’s photographs of the Four Corners area.
Drawing on Strom’s visuals, Native American folklore, and geologic history, this sly prose poem nudges us to question if there’s anything really central about our human existence on Earth.“Grace” Harjo combines the mundane with the mythic—truck stops with “imaginary buffalo”—in the opening poem from Addressed to Darlene Wind, a fellow graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the poem looks back on their wild days in the Midwest, casting them as trickster figures who “clowned” their way through the “terror” of being some of the first Native writers admitted to the famed MFA program.
” Writing from what she, in the poem "A Refuge in the Smallest of Places," calls “the timeless room of lost poetry” Harjo makes the case that her work, though painful, is a necessary act not just of commemoration but activism for this generation’s exiles, making their way north into a place where “demons” come “with ropes and cages / To take my children from me and imprison us.” Though the poems often invoke the pain of exile and genocide, they are also deeply concerned with the speaker’s positive relationships to nature, artistic expression, romantic love, and motherhood.
In the sweet “My Man’s Feet,” the lover celebrates: “They are heroic roots / You cannot mistake them / For any other six-foot walker / I could find them in a sea of feet / A planet or universe of feet.” Likewise, the theme of generations is a frequent source of joy and hope, as in “Seven Generations”: “Beneath a sky thrown open / to the need of stars / To know themselves against the dark...dance the weave of joy and tears / All night we’re lit with the sunrise of forever / Just ahead of us, through the trees / One generation after the other.” It’s impossible to read Harjo’s furious and mournful poems of loss without your heart aching.
The poem can be read as a sort of ars poetica: much of Harjo’s work seeks that same grace she and Wind sought then, that balance between a colonized past and an unimagined future, the “stubborn memory” of genocide and “hope of children and corn.”“Insomnia and the Seven Steps to Grace” Like “Grace,” this piece from (1996) connects the lyric to the historic or cosmic, this time imagining the poem’s domestic scene as part of a vast, living tapestry.
Here “stars gossip” and the night sky, “the panther of the heavens,” ruminates just like the poem’s other insomniacs.
“The map can be interpreted through the wall of the intestine,” she writes, “a spiral on the road of knowledge.”“Ah, Ah” For Harjo, a saxophonist and vocalist, music provides not only a means of structuring poems but also a way to access something beyond words, to connect with the “worlds below us and above us.” This poem from 2002 uses sound to make space for the body.
Recounting her experiences rowing dugout canoes in Hawaii, Harjo imitates the rhythmic pull of the oars with an onomatopoetic refrain, a sigh that suggests both exertion and relief.“Everybody Has a Heartache (a blues)” Harjo channels Walt Whitman in this poem from (2015), forging a collective “we” through a distinctly American musical structure.
Her surname, taken from her grandmother, means “so brave it’s crazy.” It is a fitting description for her body of work, which was recognized with the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize in 2017.But in this poem, she also exists on her own terms, present, embodied, contemporary—and stranded in “the terminal of stopped time” alongside everyone else.“An American Sunrise” First published in magazine in 2017, “Sunrise” is a model of the new Golden Shovel form: each of its long lines ends with a word taken from “We Real Cool,” the same Gwendolyn Brooks poem that inspired Terrance Hayes to invent the form.But Harjo also pays tribute to Brooks, another poet of social observation and political activism, through the poem’s setting, capturing the bluesy mood of a juke joint with just a few quick images.But like Langston Hughes, another influence here, she also insists on our differences and on singing from the “blues shack of disappeared history.” For Harjo, poetry offers one way to fight the erasure of Native Americans and the stereotypes and simplifications of their culture.“Unless the indigenous are dancing powwow all decked out in flash and beauty / We just don’t exist,” she writes.Citizens are expected to understand the rules that our government has presented to us, abide by these rules for our own well being and freedom, and serve our communities and government back.In 1789, the Constitution of the United States was ratified.He earned an MFA in poetry from the University of Alabama and is currently a visiting assistant professor of English at Macalester College in St. — Over the last, distressing two weeks, it’s been an unexpected jolt of joy to remember that our current U. If Washington is a swamp, Harjo’s appointment is like chancing upon a field of marsh marigold; it’s an encouraging reminder that not everything in our capital needs to be drained.Harjo frequently expresses her uneasiness with this project, concerned that dragging the ghosts of the past into the present will only further instill a sense of exile and alienation, as in “Exile of Memory”: “Do not return, / We were warned by one who knows things / You will only upset the dead....And then what, you with your words / In the enemy’s language, / Do you know how to make a peaceful road / Through human memory?