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“Poet Warrior” focuses on the role of poetry, art and music in the life of Joy Harjo

Joy Harjo’s Poet Warrior is a wonderful hybrid text that blends memory, poetry, songs and dreams into something unique that opens a window on the most important events in Harjo’s life and invites readers to reconnect with themselves – as well as with the land and the knowledge of their people.

Poet Warrior is a spiritual companion of Brave fool, Harjo’s first thesis, but it works alone and reading the first thesis is not a requirement to enjoy Poet Warrior. More than an autobiography following a strict chronological progression and detailing all major events, this book focuses on the role of poetry, art and music in Harjo’s life and his development as an artist. It’s a book about pain and growth; a story that highlights compassion and emphasizes the importance of rituals. Harjo talks about the importance of the stories and lessons of our ancestors, discusses the music that shaped his childhood in a broken home, and shares his understanding – and conversations – with other artists, his family and elders, messenger owls, snakes, birds and plants.

“Imagining the spirit of poetry is a bit like imagining the shape and size of knowledge,” writes Harjo. “It’s a kind of resurrection light; it’s the great ancestor spirit that’s been with me from the start, or a bear or a hummingbird. It’s a hundred horses running the earth in a soft mist, or it is a woman who undresses for her beloved in the light of the fire. It is none of that. It is more than anything. “

These words embody the spirit of Poet Warrior. Harjo’s writing brings out the things that matter most to her, so the time flies, dreams and magic play a huge part in the narrative, and the details of how she graduated from college, became a professor, his numerous publications becoming the first Native American Poet Laureate of the United States – and for three terms – and even receiving a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts barely mentioned. Instead, Harjo tackles spiritual growth, healing, and how love is unbreakable. The simplicity with which Harjo writes on deeper things makes it a beautiful book. It also makes it the kind of memory that is a work of art and a guide to life for those who want to listen. She writes:

“We are all here to serve each other. At some point, we have to understand that we don’t need to carry an unbearable story. We can observe history, which is mental; feel the story, which is physical; leave the story, which is moving; then forgive the story, which is spiritual, after which we use the materials from it to build a house of knowledge. “

Poet Warrior is a celebration of art. Harjo delves deep into his relationship with some formative authors like William Blake, Emily Dickinson, Charles Dickens, Federico García Lorca and Louisa May Alcott as well as some who later came and became friends and teachers, like the poet Acoma Simon Ortiz. , Leslie Marmon Silko of Laguna Pueblo, Ugandan poet Okot p’Bitek, Richard Hugo, N. Scott Momaday, Audre Lorde and his mentor, Meridel Le Sueur.

Harjo weaves together the personal and the political in Poet Warrior. Some stories are extremely intimate, like the death of her mentor, her falling apart relationship with her mother after moving in with an abusive man, her struggles with poverty, and becoming a mother and then a grandmother. However, other stories seem common. For example, some writings on identity and representation are chronicles of things Harjo experienced, but they are also the stories of his Mvskoke people and, to some extent, the stories of all Native Americans, which Harjo says, often only saw each other in the mainstream. media accounts like “hunted by American cavalry, fictionalized as speakers of short syllabic words of simple truths, or fashion inspirers in hippie beads and bandanas”.

Poet Warrior contains a lot of poetry, as one would expect from a memoir on becoming a poet. Harjo shares the limelight and here includes poems by Federico García Lorca, Meridel Le Sueur and others, but the crowning jewels are poems about his journey. Throughout the thesis, Harjo writes on two narrative bodies. The first is Girl-Warrior, the girl who discovered poetry and fell in love with language. Then, when she became a woman, she became Poet Warrior, a writer who used words to protest, heal and unite. The verses on Girl-Warrior and Poet Warrior tell the story of Harjo through poetry, the only language that can truly capture the meaning of certain events in a few lines.

Joy Harjo is more than a poet, painter and musician; it is a spiritual being aware of the significance of everything we see as well as the things around us that are generally invisible. And Poet Warrior is an invitation to open your eyes and see everything with her.

Gabino Iglesias is an author, literary critic, and teacher living in Austin, Texas. Find him on Twitter at @Gabino_Iglesias.

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