September 5, 2023

Joy Harjo | The Power of Collective Healing

Thomas speaks with internationally renowned performer, writer of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, and 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States, Joy Harjo. They discuss the power of poetry to open our awareness, allow access to greater knowledge, and connect with other humans throughout history. Joy shares what drew her to poetry, and how her work is deeply rooted in her ancestral lineage.

She and Thomas explore how to attune to the living ancestral field that we inhabit, and how to reckon with historical trauma through storytelling rituals and ceremonies. Joy also reads an excerpt from her 2021 memoir, Poet Warrior: A Call for Love and Justice, and shares two poems, This Morning I Pray for My Enemies, and For Calling the Spirit Back from Wandering the Earth in Its Human Feet.

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“A family is essentially a field of stories, each intricately connected.”

- Joy Harjo

Guest Information

Joy Harjo

Joy Har­jo, the 23rd Poet Lau­re­ate of the Unit­ed States, is a mem­ber of the Mvskoke Nation. She is only the sec­ond poet to be appoint­ed a third term as U.S. Poet Laureate. Har­jo began writ­ing poet­ry in response to Native empow­er­ment move­ments.

Har­jo is the author of ten books of poet­ry, includ­ing her most recent, Weav­ing Sun­down in a Scar­let Light: Fifty Poems for Fifty Years (2022), and the high­ly acclaimed An Amer­i­can Sun­rise (2019), which was a 2020 Okla­homa Book Award Win­ner. Her first mem­oir, Crazy Brave, was award­ed the PEN USA Lit­er­ary Award in Cre­ative Non Fic­tion and the Amer­i­can Book Award, and her sec­ond, Poet War­rior: A Mem­oir, was released from W.W. Nor­ton in Fall 2021.

She has pub­lished three award-win­n­ing children’s books, and sev­er­al screen­plays and col­lec­tions of prose inter­views, and edited several anthologies.

Har­jo per­forms with her sax­o­phone and flutes, solo and with her band, the Arrow Dynam­ics Band, and pre­vi­ous­ly with Joy Har­jo and Poet­ic Jus­tice. Har­jo is a chan­cel­lor of the Acad­e­my of Amer­i­can Poets and is a found­ing board mem­ber and Chair of the Native Arts and Cul­tures Foun­da­tion. She has recent­ly been induct­ed into the Amer­i­can Acad­e­my of Arts and Let­ters, the Amer­i­can Philo­soph­i­cal Soci­ety, the Nation­al Native Amer­i­can Hall of Fame, and the Nation­al Woman’s Hall of Fame. She lives in Tul­sa, Okla­homa where she is the inau­gur­al Artist-in-Res­i­dence of the Bob Dylan Center.

Learn more about Joy and her work at joyharjo.com

Notes & Resources

Key points from this episode include:

  • How poems can serve as containers for complex human emotions and dualities
  • The similarities between creative work and collective trauma work, and how they both create powerful and awe-inspiring spaces
  • The power of metaphor in poetry and how it connects the mind to the heart
  • How poetry and other rituals can help us address the waves of historical trauma that go back to the founding of the United States
  • Learning to listen and allow poems and other artistic expressions to be our teachers

Episode Transcript