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Joy Harjo
Joy Harjo

Remember

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, November 23, 2017.

About this poet

Joy Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma on May 9, 1951, and is a member of the Mvskoke/Creek Nation.

Harjo received a BA degree from the University of New Mexico before earning an MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop in 1978.

Her books of poetry include Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings (W. W. Norton, 2015); How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems (W. W. Norton, 2002); A Map to the Next World: Poems (W. W. Norton, 2000); The Woman Who Fell From the Sky (W. W. Norton, 1994), which received the Oklahoma Book Arts Award; In Mad Love and War (Wesleyan University Press, 1990), which received an American Book Award and the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award; Secrets from the Center of the World (University of Arizona Press, 1989); She Had Some Horses (Thunder's Mouth Press, 1983); and What Moon Drove Me to This? (Reed Books, 1979). She has also written a memoir, Crazy Brave (W. W. Norton, 2012), which describes her journey to becoming a poet, and which won the 2013 PEN Center USA literary prize for creative nonfiction.

Also a performer, Harjo has appeared on HBO's Def Poetry Jam in venues across the U.S. and internationally. She plays saxophone with her band Poetic Justice, and has released four award-winning CD's of original music. In 2009, she won a Native American Music Award (NAMMY) for Best Female Artist of the Year.

Harjo’s other honors include the PEN Open Book Award, the American Indian Distinguished Achievement in the Arts Award, the Josephine Miles Poetry Award, the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award, the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and fellowships from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, the Witter Bynner Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Most recently, she received the 2015 Wallace Stevens Award for proven mastery in the art of poetry by the Academy of American Poets. About Harjo, Academy of American Poets Chancellor Alicia Ostiker said: “Throughout her extraordinary career as poet, storyteller, musician, memoirist, playwright and activist, Joy Harjo has worked to expand our American language, culture, and soul.  A Creek Indian and student of First Nation history, Harjo is rooted simultaneously in the natural world, in earth—especially the landscape of the American southwest— and in the spirit world. Aided by these redemptive forces of nature and spirit, incorporating native traditions of  prayer and myth into a powerfully contemporary idiom,  her visionary justice-seeking art transforms personal and collective bitterness to beauty, fragmentation to wholeness, and trauma to healing.”

Harjo is Professor of English and American Indian studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings (W. W. Norton, 2015)
How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems (W. W. Norton, 2002)
A Map to the Next World: Poems (W. W. Norton, 2000)
The Woman Who Fell From the Sky (W. W. Norton, 1994)
In Mad Love and War (Wesleyan University Press, 1990)
Secrets from the Center of the World (University of Arizona Press, 1989)
She Had Some Horses (Thunder's Mouth Press, 1983)
What Moon Drove Me to This? (Reed Books, 1979)

Remember

Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star's stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Remember the sun's birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother's, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life, also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
origin of this universe.
Remember you are all people and all people
are you.
Remember you are this universe and this
universe is you.
Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember language comes from this.
Remember the dance language is, that life is.
Remember.

"Remember." Copyright ©1983 by Joy Harjo from She Had Some Horses by Joy Harjo. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

"Remember." Copyright ©1983 by Joy Harjo from She Had Some Horses by Joy Harjo. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

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poem

from WHEREAS ["Whereas when offered..."]

WHEREAS when offered an apology I watch each movement the shoulders
                        high or folding, tilt of the head both eyes down or straight through
                        me, I listen for cracks in knuckles or in the word choice, what is it
                        that I want? To feel and mind you I feel from the senses—I read
                        each muscle, I ask the strength of the gesture to move like a poem.
                        Expectation’s a terse arm-fold, a failing noun-thing
                        I scold myself in the mirror for holding.

                        Because I learn from young poets. One sends me new work spotted
                        with salt crystals she metaphors as her tears. I feel her phrases,
                        “I say,” and “Understand me,” and “I wonder.”

                        Pages are cavernous places, white at entrance, black in absorption.
                        Echo.

                        If I’m transformed by language, I am often
                        crouched in footnote or blazing in title.
                        Where in the body do I begin;

Layli Long Soldier
2017
collection

Classic Books of American Poetry

This collection of books showcases the masterpieces of American poetry that have influenced—or promise to influence—generations of poets. Take a look.

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Weir Farm National Historic Site. Courtesy of National Park Service.
poem

America, I Sing Back

for Phil Young, my father, Robert Hedge Coke, Whitman, and Hughes

America, I sing back. Sing back what sung you in.
Sing back the moment you cherished breath.
Sing you home into yourself and back to reason.

Oh, before America began to sing, I sung her to sleep,
held her cradleboard, wept her into day.
My song gave her creation, prepared her delivery,
held her severed cord beautifully beaded.

My song helped her stand, held her hand for first steps,

nourished her very being, fed her, placed her three sisters strong.
My song comforted her as she battled my reason

broke my long held footing sure, as any child might do.

Lo, as she pushed herself away, forced me to remove myself,
as I cried this country, my song grew roses in each tear’s fall.

My blood veined rivers, painted pipestone quarries
circled canyons, while she made herself maiden fine.

Oh, but here I am, here I am, here, I remain high on each and every peak,
carefully rumbling her great underbelly, prepared to pour forth singing—

and sing again I will, as I have always done.

Never silenced unless in the company of strangers, singing

the stoic face, polite repose, polite, while dancing deep inside, polite
Mother of her world. Sister of myself.

When my song sings aloud again. When I call her back to cradle.
Call her to peer into waters, to behold herself in dark and light,

day and night, call her to sing along, call her to mature, to envision—

Then, she will make herself over. My song will make it so

When she grows far past her self-considered purpose,
I will sing her back, sing her back. I will sing. Oh, I will—I do.

America, I sing back. Sing back what sung you in.

Allison Adelle Hedge Coke
2016
poem

The Thanksgivings

Translated from a traditional Iroquois prayer

 

We who are here present thank the Great Spirit that we are here to praise Him.
We thank Him that He has created men and women, and ordered that these beings shall always be living to multiply the earth.
We thank Him for making the earth and giving these beings its products to live on.
We thank Him for the water that comes out of the earth and runs for our lands.
We thank Him for all the animals on the earth.
We thank Him for certain timbers that grow and have fluids coming from them for us all.
We thank Him for the branches of the trees that grow shadows for our shelter.
We thank Him for the beings that come from the west, the thunder and lightning that water the earth.
We thank Him for the light which we call our oldest brother, the sun that works for our good.
We thank Him for all the fruits that grow on the trees and vines.
We thank Him for his goodness in making the forests, and thank all its trees.
We thank Him for the darkness that gives us rest, and for the kind Being of the darkness that gives us light, the moon.
We thank Him for the bright spots in the skies that give us signs, the stars.
We give Him thanks for our supporters, who had charge of our harvests.
We give thanks that the voice of the Great Spirit can still be heard through the words of Ga-ne-o-di-o.
We thank the Great Spirit that we have the privilege of this pleasant occasion.
We give thanks for the persons who can sing the Great Spirit's music, and hope they will be privileged to continue in his faith.
We thank the Great Spirit for all the persons who perform the ceremonies on this occasion.
Harriet Maxwell Converse
1908
collection

Gwendolyn Brooks: A Centennial Celebration

A Pulitzer Prize winner, an Academy Fellowship winner, and the first black woman appointed as consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress, Gwendolyn Brooks was—and continues to be—an outstanding voice in the world of contemporary American poetry. Brooks, who was awarded countless literary honors in her lifetime, was known for writing poems that captured a cross-section of everyday life in her hometown of Chicago. In sonnets, ballads, epic poems, and more, Brooks captured the lives, speech, and perspectives of people as varied as those she encountered in her city, and was particularly known for her interrogation of race relations and class.

This year marks Brooks’s centennial, and to celebrate, we’ve created this new collection of essays, audio, and poems by and about Brooks.

collection

A Poet's Glossary

Read about poetic terms and forms from Edward Hirsch's A Poet's Glossary (Harcourt, 2014), a book ten years in the making that defines the art form of poetry.  

AASL Best Website for Teaching & Learning
poem

Like Stride

We will live forever misaligning the changes
into further time stinted tricks
giving up post kickflip failures
scribbling prepared remarks to notebooks
unlocked over dry spells flooded with demand
salt crystals crushed, the past flashed
and I was a working writer, nursing the pools
in everyone’s hearts, disembarking
soothing the air around a final question
away in the country toweling off
my doing the most proper thing turned
somehow slick, of feminine wiles, a clap trap
case book, the dream at the end so delicate
and put out. Makes light so pained
two reclining long in the turn of the neck
in like stride, imparting poetic asides
(bored to tears in Taos) cross out words
and tunnel the line, the guts will sit atop
glistening, hand stamped valves really
toying with release, a lighted display
corresponding controls, to repave
an entire arcade in release of our well
whiskey texting back dimension
We are poor and not cheap, in love
with the same little song slashed booklet

Cedar Sigo
2017
collection

John Ashbery, 1927–2017: A Tribute

On September 3, 2017, John Ashbery died at his home in Hudson, New York, at the age of ninety. Ashbery had a long history with the Academy of American Poets, dating back to the 1960s when he read in our series at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. He received the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize in 1985 for his poetry collection A Wave (Viking, 1984). From 1988 to 1999, he served on our Board of Chancellors, and over the years, Ashbery participated in numerous Academy of American Poets events, including readings at the Morgan Library and the 92nd Street Y in New York City. In honor of Ashbery, and his important contributions to American poetry, we've gathered a collection of his poems, historic recordings of the poet reading his work, photographs from our archive, and more.