We are delighted to invite you this Thursday, April 22, 7:00 pm (PT) to a virtual Earth Day reading by U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, sponsored by our long term partner, Skirball Cultural Center, with support from Engaging the Senses Foundation. Joy will read selections from her vast body of work—including from her latest book of poetry, An American Sunrise — and explore relevant Earth Day themes and subjects with Louise Steinman, a writer, artist and literary curator whose work frequently deals with memory, history, and reconciliation. The reading is free to the public, but requires a reservation.
Joy Harjo is an internationally renowned musician, performer, and writer of the Muscogee Creek Nation, who was named the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States in 2019, and has been re-appointed for an extraordinary third term. She is the first Native American to hold the U.S. Poet Laureate position. The author of nine books of poetry, several plays and children’s books, and a memoir, Crazy Brave, her many honors include the Ruth Lily Prize for Lifetime Achievement from the Poetry Foundation, the Academy of American Poets Wallace Stevens Award, a PEN USA Literary Award, Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund Writers’ Award, a Rasmuson U.S. Artist Fellowship, two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and is a founding board member of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation. Joy directs For Girls Becoming, an arts mentorship program for young Mvskoke women.
In an earlier conversation and reading with Joy during the pandemic era, she said: “I think poetry is always there. You’ll always find poetry emerging during emergencies. We’re in a transformational emergency. That means we are coming from a place and we’re going to a place; we’re going to be changed. We don’t know exactly how but we do have a sense of why this is happening. We’ve all had this sense that we’re just moving along too fast. We’re watching the denigration of the living space and our home, which is really us. We are the earth. We are essentially the earth itself. And we’ve been watching this happen. Now here we are emerging through an emergency. And poetry is always a place to experience this. It is a very human kind of art.”
Her life’s work a long apprenticeship and study for just such an inevitable time as this, in her 2021 Earth Day reading and conversation Joy will explore the ways in which her poems create a dialogue with history, find blessings in the abundance of her homeland, contend with quiet anger at living in the ruins of injustice, and locate the possibility of change and hope.
(From An American Sunrise):
Then I heard the rhythm sound of a running horse coming up behind me. I smelled the sweat of human and horse, and as the breathy team caught up I saw my grandfather astride the horse. What a rider he was, just as I had been told in all the stories. I remembered that my aunt Lois Harjo told me how Monahwee could bend time. He could arrive at a destination on horseback long before it was physically possible. And as quickly as he’d come, he was gone, and I saw a traffic sign “30 miles to Atlanta.” I’d only been on that road for a few minutes. My grandfather had come back to show me how he folded time. The Old Ones will always tell you, your ancestors keep watch over you. Listen to them.