An American Sunrise: Poems by Joy Harjo, Native American poet, Poem “Bless This Land” by Joy Harjo, United States Poet Laureate Joy Harjo (2019-2022)
My Poetry Corner April 2023 features the poem “Bless This Land” from the poetry collection An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo, Poet Laureate of the United States 2019-2022. (The following excerpts of poems are all sourced from this collection.)
Born in 1951 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the first of four siblings, Joy Harjo is a poet, musician, playwright, and author. Her father was Muscogee (Creek) Nation and her mother of mixed ancestry of Cherokee, French, and Irish. Her mother exposed her to poetry at an early age, but painting was her first love.
My mother was a songwriter and singer, Harjo relates in her poem “Washing My Mother’s Body.” My mother’s gifts were trampled by economic necessity and emotional imprisonment. // My father was a dancer, a rhythm keeper. His ancestors were orators, painters, tribal chiefs, stomp dancers, preachers, and speakers… All his relatively short life he looked for a vision or song to counter the heartache of history. Her father’s drinking and abuse ended their marriage.
At sixteen years of age, Harjo’s abusive and violent stepfather kicked her out of their home. She moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she received her high school education at the Institute of American Indian Arts. After graduation, she returned to Oklahoma, gave birth to a son, and returned to New Mexico to pursue a life as an artist. After earning her BA at the University of New Mexico (UNM) in 1976, Harjo moved to Iowa where she completed an MFA in 1978 at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop.Continue reading