Joy Harjo: Poet
Joy Harjo is a poet . . . of our mixed North American imagination.
I created this page because Joy Harjo has written some wonderful poetry and . . . she's an interesting woman. Joy Harjo is part of the Muscoge/Creek Nation. She is a Native American activist, professor, scriptwriter, published poet, singer, and plays tenor sax.
"My house is the red earth; it could be the center of the world. I've heard New York, Paris, or Tokyo called the center of the world, but I say it is magnificently humble. You could drive by and miss it. Radio waves can obscure it. Words cannot construct it . . . ."
~ Joy Harjo ~
Poem: Eagle Poem
by Joy Harjo
To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you
And know there is more
That you can't see, can't hear
Can't know except in moments
Steadly growing, and in languages
That aren't always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning
Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing
We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon within a
True circle of motion,
Like eagle rounding out the morning
We pray that it will be done
photo: Arctish / photobucket
Eagle Poem Performed
Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and an enrolled member of the Muskogee Tribe.
Came to New Mexico to attend the Institute of American Indian Arts and studied painting and theater.
Attended the University of New Mexico where she received her B.A. in 1976, then earned an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. Also attended a non-degree program in Filmmaking at the Anthropology Film Center.
Began writing poetry when the Indian political climate needed a voice.
In Denver she took up the saxophone to learn how to sing and imagined a band that would combine poetry with a kind of music not yet defined having elements of tribal music, jazz and rock.
Returned to New Mexico . . .
"I begin with the seed of an emotion, a place, and then move from there. I no longer see the poem as an ending point, perhaps more the end of a journey, an often long journey that can begin years earlier, say with the blur of the memory of the sun on someone's cheek, a certain smell, an ache, and will culminate years later in a poem, sifted through a point, a lake in my heart through which language
~ Joy Harjo ~
Poem: September Moon
Last night she called and told me
about the moon over San Francisco Bay.
Here in Albuquerque it is mirrored
in a cool, dark Sandia sky.
The reflection is within all of us.
Orange, and almost the harvest
moon. Wind and the chill of the colder
months coming on. The children and I
watched it, crossing San Pedro and Central
coming up from the state fair.
Wind blowing my hair was caught
in my face. I was fearful of traffic,
trying to keep my steps and the moon was east,
out of any skin that was covering her. Naked.
We are alive. The woman of the moon looking
at us, and we looking at her, acknowledging
More on Joy Harjo . . . - and other stuff
- Joy Harjo's Poetic Adventures in the Last World
Joy Harjo's blog.
- Concert and Poetry Calendar
Harjo's scheduled appearances.
- Interview with Terrain.org
As an American Indian, a woman, a global citizen, is there a continuous message you must relay . . . ?
- Interview with Southern Scribe
Where did you grow up? At what age did you know that you wanted to be an writer/artist/musician?
- English Professor [Harjo] Resigns Over Administration's Actions
article by Maggie Ybarra, DailyLobo
Wings of the Night Sky reviewed, Los Angeles Times, March 2009
- We Shall Remain
PBS American Experience, 5 episodes
Oldest of four children born to Allen and Wynema Foster.
.Mother was of Cherokee and French descent.
Father traced his heritage to the Muscogee Creek tribe.
Parents divorced when Joy was eight.
Great aunt, Lois Harjo Ball, is credited with fostering Joy's interest in her Creek roots.
Creek leader Menawe, one of Harjo's ancestors, led the battle against the US Army's forced relocation of American Indian tribes, which was named the Red Stick War.
Great - great grandparents moved to Oklahoma, then Indian Territory, in the 1830s when the US government forced Creek tribes from their lands we know as Alabama and Georgia.
Poem: Ah, Ah
by Joy Harjo
for Lurline McGregor
Ah, ah cries the crow arching toward the heavy sky over the marina.
Lands on the crown of the palm tree.
Ah, ah slaps the urgent cove of ocean swimming through the slips.
We carry canoes to the edge of the salt.
Ah, ah groans the crew with the weight, the winds cutting skin.
We claim our seats. Pelicans perch in the draft for fish.
Ah, ah beats our lungs and we are racing into the waves.
Though there are worlds below us and above us, we are straight ahead.
Ah, ah tatttoos the engines of your plane against the sky-away from these waters.
Each paddle stroke follows the curve from reach to loss.
Ah, ah calls the sun from a fishing boat with a pale, yellow sail. We fly by
on our return, over the net of eternity thrown out for stars.
Ah, ah scrapes the hull of my soul. Ah, ah.
photo: abaum20 / photobucket
Jobs and Awards
1978-79........taught at the Institute of American Indian Arts as an Instructor
1980-81........taught at Arizona State University as a Lecturer
1983-84........taught at Santa Fe Community College as an Instructor
1983-84........taught at the Institute of American Indian Arts as an Instructor
1985-88........was Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado
1988-90.........was Associate Professor at the University of Arizona
1991-95........was a Full Professor at the University of New Mexico
1995-00........toured with her award winning band, Poetic Justice
1996.............teaching at the University of California at Los Angeles, member of the PEN Advisory Board and PEN New Mexico Advisory Board
2005-08........first Joseph M. Russo Professor of Creative Writing and the first Native American to hold an endowed chair in the U of New Mexico's history
She has received the following grants and awards:
Academy of American Poetry Award at the University of New Mexico
NEA Creative Fellowship 1978
EA summer stipend at the University of Arizona 1978
Arizona Commission on the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship 1989
First place in poetry at the Santa Fe Festival for the Arts 1980
Oklahoma Center for the Book's Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award.
Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award 1990
Poetry Society of America's William Carlos Williams Award 1991
First CD, Letter from the End of the 20th Century, was honored by First Americans in the Arts for Outstanding Musical Achievement.
The American Indian Film Festival awarded her the Eagle Spirit Achievement Award in 2002.
Released two more CDs of original music and performances including, Winding Through the Milky Way, for which she won a NAMMY for Best Female Artist of the Year.
She recently received a Rasmusson: US Artists Fellowship for 2009.
“Joy Harjo is one of the real poets of our mixed, fermenting, end-of-century North American imagination.”
~ Adrienne Rich ~
Poem: Perhaps the World Ends Here
by Joy Harjo
The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.
The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.
We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.
It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.
At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.
Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.
This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.
Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.
We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.
At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.
Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.
Joy Harjo Performs
Published In . . .
Joy has been published in magazines including:
Massachusetts Review . . . . Ploughshares . . . . Puerto del Sol . . . .Contact II, . . . .The Bloomsbury Review . . . . Journal of Ethnic Studies . . . . American Voice . . . . . Kenyon Review . . . . Sonora Review . . . . Beloit Poetry Review . . . . Greenfield Review . . . . River Styx.
". . . . made me feel quite pried open and shot through with a very immanent sacred power and a sense also of the strength ad endurance of a woman who draws energy and insight and compassion from everything in her background."
~ Marge Piercy ~
Poem: My House in the Red Earth
by Joy Harjo
My house is the red earth; it could be the center of the world. I've heard New York, Paris, or Tokyo called the center of the world, but I say it is magnificently humble. You could drive by and miss it. Radio waves can obscure it. Words cannot construct it, for there are some sounds left to sacred wordless form. For instance, that fool crow, picking through trash near the corral, understands the center of the world as greasy strips of fat. Just ask him. He doesn't have to say that the earth has turned scarlet through fierce belief, after centuries of heartbreak and laughter-he perches on the blue bowl of the sky, and laughs.
She has been a member of the:
Native American Public Broadcasting Consortium Board of Directors
The Phoenix Indian Center Board of Directors
Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines Grants Panel
National Endowment for the Arts Policy Panel
New Mexico Arts Commission Advisory Panel
National Third World Writers Association Board of Directors (no longer functioning).
Co-edited an anthology of contemporary Native women's writing: Reinventing the Enemy's Language: Native Women's Writing of North America. It was pronounced one of the London Observer's Best Books of 1997.
Wrote the award-winning children's book from Harcourt, The Good Luck Cat.
Contributed poetic prose to photographs by Stephen Strom in Secrets from the Center of the World.
First music CD, Letter from the End of the 20th Century,,released by Silver Wave Records in 1997.
Second CD of original songs, Native Joy for Real.
Performed internationally, from the Arctic Circle in Norway at the Riddu Riddu Festival.
Featured on Bill Moyers, The Power of the Word series.
Narrator for the Turner The Native Americans series.
Narrator for the Emmy award-winning show, Navajo Codetalkers, for National Geographic.
Music video "Eagle Song," nominated for best music video at the American Indian Film Festival 2002.
Performs internationally with the Arrow Dynamics Band.
One-woman show, Wings of Night Sky, Wings of Morning Light premiered at the Wells Fargo Theater in 2009.
Writes a column "Comings and Goings" for her tribal newspaper, the Muscogee Nation News.
Joy Harjo's CD
Internationally known Native American poet and musician Joy Harjo mixes the powerful lyrics of her raw smoky singing topped with jazzy, saucy licks of her alto sax. The result is a distinct native sound blended with jazz, rock, even folk and a touch of hip hop soul for spice. You can sing to it, you can dance to it, cry to it, even laugh a little. (amazon)
Poem: Sunrise - by Joy Harjo
Sunrise, as you enter the houses of everyone here, find us.
We've been crashing for days, or has it been years.
Find us, beneath the shadow of this yearning mountain, crying here.
We have been sick with sour longings, and the jangling of fears.
Our spirits rise up in the dark, because they hear,
Doves in cottonwoods calling forth the sun.
We struggled with a monster and lost.
Our bodies were tossed in the pile of kill. We rotted there.
We were ashamed and we told ourselves for a thousand years,
We didn't deserve anything but this--
And one day, in relentless eternity, our spirits discerned movement of prayers
Carried toward the sun.
And this morning we are able to stand with all the rest
And welcome you here.
We move with the lightness of being, and we will go
Where there's a place for us.