33 Joy Harjo

Joy Harjo (1951- )

Joy Harjo (1951- )

Selected Poems

American Indian (Mvskoke)

Postcolonialism / Contemporary Literature

Joy Harjo (born in Tulsa, Oklahoma) is a critically acclaimed poet and musician, drawing on American Indian history and storytelling tradition. She is a member of the Mvskoke (aka. Muscogee, or Creek) nation; her father was a member of the Mvskoke tribe, and her mother was Cherokee, French, and Irish. In her work, she incorporates the history, myths, and beliefs of Native America (Creek in particular) as well as ideas that concern feminism, imperialism and colonization, contemporary America, and the contemporary world. Related to Native American storytelling is a sense of all things being connected, which often shapes her work. Inspired by the evolving nature of oral storytelling and ceremonial tradition, she integrates various forms of music, performance, and dance into her poetry, and has released award-winning CDs of original music. Her first volume of poetry was The Last Song (1975), and her other books of poetry include How We Became Human—New and Selected Poems (2004), The Woman Who Fell From the Sky (1994), and She Had Some Horses (1983). Her CD releases include Red Dreams, A Trail Beyond Tears (2010) and Winding Through the Milky Way (2008).

Consider while reading:

  1. Select specific poems by Harjo, and discuss what specific cultural elements are incorporated into those poems.
  2. In what ways might Harjo’s poems reflect a Native American woman’s perspective?
  3. Listen to, or watch, Harjo reciting and/or performing some of her poems. How does Harjo’s performance accentuate the meaning of the poem(s)?

Written by Kyounghye Kwon

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