Friday, June 21, 2019

Thought Provokers


Joy Harjo, as many of you will know, has just been made Poet Laureate of the USA, the first indigenous American in that role.

To be honest, I have scrambled hastily to find something of hers to share, as this is obviously an event to be celebrated. Although I vaguely knew her name, I was not familiar with her writing.

To find this amazing poem on YouTube was a gift. While I'm concerned that it may already be familiar to many of you, and I like to give you something new if I can, in this instance the poet's own recital is so powerful that I'm sure one could stand hearing (and seeing) it again and again.

I also looked at a very brief interview (so I wont bother linking it) in which she said, in connection with this poem, which was apparently one of her earliest, that poetry saved her: she had reached a point where it was crucial to find her voice. She sure found it!

Wikipedia tells us:
'Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma on May 9, 1951, with the given name Joy Foster. Her father, Allen W. Foster, was Muscogee Creek and her mother, Wynema Baker Foster, has mixed-race ancestry of Cherokee, French, and Irish. Harjo was the oldest of four children.
When Harjo enrolled at age 19 as a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, she took her paternal grandmother's last name "Harjo" (it is a common name among Muscogee and related peoples).'
Wikipedia also goes into detail both about her early difficult life with an abusive father and then stepfather, and her brilliant adult career which began with a love of painting. That led her into tertiary education. The article then becomes a list of distinguished achievements, including: 
'Harjo has played alto saxophone with the band Poetic Justice, edited literary journals, and written screenplays. ... As a musician, Harjo has released five CDs, all of which won awards. These feature both her original music and that of other Native American artists.'  
And so on and so on. She is a woman of great and varied accomplishments.
The Guardian quotes her as saying: 
'I began writing poetry because I didn’t hear Native women’s voices in the discussions of policy, of how we were going to move forward in a way that is respectful and honors those basic human laws that are common to all people, like treating all life respectfully, honoring your ancestors, this earth.'

Her books, interviews with her, etc. are available at her official site and her books – a prolific output – are also available at Amazon. I see I have a lot of catching up to do. I can hardly wait!

Meanwhile she swears that this poem successfully gets rid of fear. Perhaps it does so again and again, with many repetitions, whenever needed? Or is it so profound that it could do it once and for all? I guess we won't know unless we genuinely give it a try. However it works must surely be good.

And that this woman is now Poet Laureate of the United States must also be very good.

Material shared in “Thought Provokers’ is presented for study and review. Poems and other writings, photos and videos remain the property of the copyright owners, usually their authors.

20 comments:

  1. WOW. Rosemary, thanks for sharing this amazing reading.

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  2. I am familiar with Joy Harjo, though I've not read much of her work. However, I do LOVE the reading, her talent at evoking emotion with her words and song. I am happy she is our poet laureate and think it is well deserved. Thank you Rosemary for posting something that we in the States can be proud of.

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  3. WOW!!!!!!!!! That poem, and its message, and her power in delivering it. I am sitting here in awe, grinning like a hyena...........I was thrilled to hear of her appointment as first indigenous Poet Laureate. I have always loved her voice. I am rather thrilled, at this moment. I love her closing message to fear: I am alive, and you are so afraid of dying. YAY!

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    1. Yes, what a unique poem, point of view, everything! And one I immediately wanted to adopt – heck, to have everyone adopt.

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  4. Thank you, Rosemary, for sharing this. I was familiar with some of her prose writing, but so needed to hear her saying and singing these words in this moment. Incredible.

    Elizabeth

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  5. Wowww!!!! This poem is incredibly poignant, Rosemary!!❤️ I loved the way Joy read aloud the poem, there is so much power in her manner of addressing the crowd. I wasn't familiar with her work and hadn't heard of her until I read your article. Thank you so much for introducing us to her. A very well deserved Poet Laureate she is. Yes!❤️

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    1. It makes me hunger to become better acquainted with the rest of her work too.

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  6. Thank you Respected Rosemary The news about Joy Harjo is all over the media.Thank you for bringing her voice forward, hearing her read her work is an honor.She has written powerful meaningful poems and reached a point os success and achievement.

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  7. Thank you, Rosemary. I have followed this poet, and am happy to see her here.

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    1. I'm not surprised to learn you've been following her, Susan; I can imagine how interesting and empowering her work must be to those who know it.

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  8. Wow! Absolutely incredible! The words and the way she delivered! Thank you Rosemary for sharing this.

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  9. Wow indeed - what a wonderful, wonderful poem. I had heard of Joy Harjo, but had never read or listened to any of her works!! I will seek out more.

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    1. I have been doing just that, and she is always wonderful and also startling.

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  10. What a stunning piece … both the words of the poem and the powerful, eloquence with which they are presented. What a fascinating poet. Thanks so much for this intro to Joy Harjo, Rosemary!

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    1. It's going to be interesting, I think, to watch the next phase of her career, as Poet Laureate.

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