Latest Update: 20 October 2007

Author - Poet - Musician - Screenwriter
Muskogee, Creek
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Joy Harjo and Poetic Justice: Official Site

"If we cry more tears we will ruin the land with salt; instead let's praise that which would distract us with despair. Make a song for death, a song for yellow teeth and bad breath"
—Joy Harjo, from "Mourning Song"—

 "I turn and return to Harjo's poetry for her breathtaking complex witness and for her world-remaking language: precise, unsentimental, miraculous."  —Adrienne Rich—

Academy of American Poets Exhibits: Joy Harjo. The Academy of American poets provides this short biography: "Joy Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1951. Her books of poetry include How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems (W.W. Norton & Co., 2002); A Map to the Next World: Poems (2000); The Woman Who Fell From the Sky (1994), which received the Oklahoma Book Arts Award; In Mad Love and War (1990), which received an American Book Award and the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award; Secrets from the Center of the World (1989); She Had Some Horses (1983); and What Moon Drove Me to This? (1979). She also performs her poetry and plays saxophone with her band, Poetic Justice. Her many honors include 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, and fellowships from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, the Witter Bynner Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She lives in Hawaii."  Includes links such as "A Mountain of Sorrows, of Songs."

Interviews with Joy Harjo. An extensive interview with Joy Harjo for the publication Triplopia - fascinating.  Entitled "Becoming the Thing Itself: In Conversation with Triploplia, Joy Harjo discusses fusion, responsibility, and the penetration of music" - Southern Scribe Interview: "The Thirst for Artistic Brilliance" by Pam Kingsbury.

Lannon Foundation: Joy Harjo. Harjo joins her friends, poet Simon Ortiz and novelist Leslie Marmon Silko in dialogue, 2005.  Listen to her here at the Lannon Foundation.

Literature and Medicine: Joy Harjo.  This New York University Medical Humanities database includes information (including summary and commentary)  about three of Joy Harjo's poems for their insights on and perceptions of alcoholism, colonialism, death and dying, family relationships, grief, loneliness, mourning, the Native-American experience, poverty, spirituality, trauma, war and medicine: "The Dawn Appears with Butterflies," "Mourning Song," "Northern Lights," and "The Woman Hanging from the Thirteenth Floor Window"

Music and Joy Harjo: 2000 Gale group article by Neal Ullestad, "American Indian Rap and Reggae: Dancing 'To the Beat of a Different Drummer" - a sound recording review.

Native American Authors Project: Joy Harjo.  Part of the Internet Public Library's Native American Authors Project, this site gives a brief biography and bibliography, plus many links—most of which are good as of the latest update of this page.  Nice links, for example, to essays about Harjo that are not linked on this page.

harjo20th.jpg (5897 bytes)Poetic Justice: Joy Harjo's Band. Review of Letter from the End of the Twentieth Century. Get some tracks here.

Joy Harjo now performs simply as Joy Harjo.  For some time, however, she performed with Poetic Justice, her band.  An site run by University of Massachusetts (Hanksville - this page no longer available) focused on Joy Harjo's Denver band, Poetic Justice.  Harjo plays tenor saxophone and performs her poems to a diverse set of musical compositions, including tribal, jazz, reggae, and rock.   Letter From the End of the Twentieth Century, their newly released CD, is now available (winner of the 1998 Outstanding Musical Achievement Award presented by The First Americans in the Arts). Harjo writes:   "The term poetic justice is a term of grace, expressing how justice can appear in the world despite forces of confusion and destruction. The band takes its name from this term because we are: a poet, an Indian water rights attorney, a tribal judge, two educators and a stock clerk; and because all of us have worked for justice in our lives, through any means possible and through music. The music that speaks for us is a blend of influences that speak of community, love for people, for all creatures, for this crazy beautiful history and the need to sing with and of the sacred. These musics are our respective tribal musics, from Muscogee, Northern Plains, Hopi to Navajo; reggae, a music born of the indomitable spirit of a tribal people in a colonized land; jazz, a music born of the need to sing by African peoples in this country, a revolutionary movement of predominately African sources influenced by Europe and the southern tribes; and rock and blues, musics cradled in the south that speak of our need to move with heart and soul through this land, the spiral of life. We are forged by this dance for justice and the absolute need to sing."   (Links currently unavailable, formerly available via the poetic justice page of the hanksville site). As part of the Rocking Warriors documentary, Joy Harjo's sound is described as "a fusion of poetry, music, politics and spirituality into her own form of jazz." For sound clips go to the Hanksville site on Letter from the End of the Twentieth Century.  See Thomas Rain Crowe's review of Letters from the End of the Twentieth Century ("Following the lead of Jim Pepper, Harjo mixes American Indian, African, and jazz rhythms to create her own unique, if soft-spoken, brand of music. And with the spoken lyrics of her poems sensitively interwoven with the percussive, reggae/rock, and jazz arrangements on this recording, she has put herself in the company of only a few contemporary performers who have dared to wander into the uncharted wilderness of 'spoken-word & music' --such artists as Laurie Anderson, John Trudell, Jim Morrison, Kat Onoma, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and (in his own way) Leonard Cohen.")

Native Joy for Real: Joy Harjo.  More about Joy Harjo.  (See also  this site with audio from Joy Harjo on the role of the Muskogee Nation in American history.)

Native Networks: Joy Harjo. From the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian, this is a tribute to Harjo's work, including  co-written screenplay of an awarding-winning 2005 film, A Thousand Roads.

Poetics and Politics: Joy Harjo.  Poems, seminar writings, video.  "Every writer has to have some kind of personal investment. I think every struggle is a personal struggle. I don't care how they mask it ... You don't write something, whatever it is, without it being a part of you."

Poetry Foundation: Joy Harjo. Career and bibliographic information about Harjo, including links to poems like the one she wrote on 9/11 "When the World Ended as We Know It" and "Perhaps the World Ends Here."

"Remember" - by Joy Harjo.  How we become human - beautiful.  A hypertext form of the poem, the hypertext by Kelly Cruz

Roots of Poetry: Joy Harjo.  Interview with Joy Harjo - excellent insight into her poetry and her passions, by, journal of natural and built environments.

Spreading Joy: Joy Harjo.  Joy Harjo uses the lessons of her Muskogee heritage and life experiences to weave her story in her home in Hawaii.

Storyteller: Joy Harjo A University of Massachusetts (Hanksville) Website introducing Joy Harjo as a writer of poetry, music, essays, and films—as well as a college/university teacher since 1980.  (Currently, Joy Harjo is teaching at UCLA.)  The site lists her awards and affiliations.   The awards, too numerous to mention all,  include the American Book Award, the Poetry Society of America's  William Carlos Williams Award, the Delmore Schwartz Award, the New Mexico Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts, and the American Indian Distinguished Achievement in the Arts Award.  Harjo is a member of the  PEN Advisory Board and the PEN New Mexico Advisory Board, and has served as a member of the following: the Native American Public Broadcasting Consortium Board of Directors from 1987 to 1990, The Phoenix Indian Center Board of Directors in 1980-81, the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines Grants Panel for the Fall of 1980, the National Endowment for the Arts Policy Panel for Literature 1980-83, the New Mexico Arts Commission Advisory Panel 1979-80 and 1984, and the National Third World Writers Association Board of Directors--no longer functioning).   The "Storyteller" site includes a calendar of her appearances, an extensive listing of links to online writing and links to for printed copies of books by and about Joy Harjo, including books containing interviews with Harjo, or articles by or about her, anthologies containing her work, textbooks, audio cassettes, and CDs.

Voices from the Gaps: Joy Harjo.  A collaborative effort between faculty and students in the Department of English and the Program in American Studies at the University of Minnesota, Voices from the Gap provides a database for teachers and learners on "the lives and works of women writers of color" in North America.  "The Voices project relies upon students and scholars from around the world to contribute author 'home pages' for women writers of color. Each author page presents biographical, critical and bibliographical information about the writer as well as images and quotes pertinent to her life and works. Each page includes, in addition, links to other resources on the World Wide Web which contain significant information about that writer. Author pages are organized along a set of four indices: by name, place of birth, significant dates, and ethnic/racial identity"  You will find Joy Harjo listed under "H" for Harjo, under her birthstate of Oklahomoa, alongside the years 1951 (her year of birth), and under the racial/ethnic background heading for Indigenous/Native American. The Joy Harjo site, researched and submitted by two students at the University of Minnesota (Sarah Mischler and Scott Christensen) includes photographs and images, a biography (including information about her band, Poetic Justice), links to sites about her tribe and literary influences, a selected bibliography, and a list of related Web sites.

X-tra--Heath Anthology Interview with Joy Harjo.  (Note: As of the October 2007 update, this Website is not working well.) Throughout her studies, Harjo sought out works by Native, African-American, and Latin American writers. "Their work turned me on to poetry," she recalls. "I found their poetry wasn't divorced from the people, unlike so much of the poetry that is usually studied.  Today, just about everything inspires me to continue writing. My grand-daughter inspires me to think about the future. I have intense dreams and visions that inspire me. And I have an amazement for survival that keeps me writing."// Five of Harjo's poems are included in the Heath Anthology of American Literature. "We [contemporary poets] are inventing our own poetic forms," she observes, "and these should take their place alongside traditional European forms in the study of literature. Not to include new forms is simply cultural arrogance." In tribal cultures, she explains, a poet is considered a truth-teller. "I hope readers see me as such a truth-teller, someone who takes part in revitalizing cultures, in giving back life and excitement. I hope reading my work will help students give value to their own voices." [This short interview was published in the early 1990s.]harjo2.jpg (9763 bytes)

YouTube: Joy Harjo.  Harjo reading in Berkeley 1997 | | Joy Harjo speaks on the Jim Lehrer News Hour || Fan reads Harjo's "The Woman Hanging from the Thirteenth Floor Window" (see this site which quotes and refers to the poem in its message about depression: Winter of the Soul and this analysis of the poem called Borders and Identities) || Joy Harjo performs/sings her poems at Medellin (subtitles in Spanish-este es mi corazon) || A fan reads Harjo's "Grace" || A fan reads Harjo's "Remember" || Def Poetry Program: second part, Joy Harjo performs her "I Give You Back" - a poem to get rid of fear from She Had Some Horses ||

Other: Audio - U New Mexico.  Native-Wiki on Joy Harjo (by Karen Strom, an expert in Native American literature). Purdue course page on Harjo. Article (2002) on Harjo's ecological poetry Poetry Magazine page on Harjo. Perspectives in American Literature (PAL) Research Guide to Harjo. Playable tracks of her work, e.g., "The Real Revolution Is Love." Native American Public Telecommunications (NAPT) on Harjo, includes an audio. Public Radio Literary Friendships Audio site: Joy Harjo and Sandra Cisneros. Poetry Center at Smith College, includes some poems. Ploughshares 2005 article on Joy Harjo, by William Pitt Root.  Joy Harjo headlines 2003 event at Virginia Tech. || 2007-8 Writers Series Northwest College Humanities. || Bloomsbury Review article about Joy Harjo's CD releases. || Article on Harjo by the Encyclopedia of World Biography || B. Cesmat's page on Harjo's "Postcolonial Tale" || Joy Harjo visits Northwest College October 2007 ||

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Academy of American Poets

Created 20 June 2000.  Revised 21 October 2007. 
Copyright Gloria L. Floren 2000-7.  All rights reserved.
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