Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
Compassion, empowered women and the many faces of love provide insight into poems and memories from Joy Harjo’s memoir “Poet Warrior”.
Reading the book is a magical ride.
“Mixing a lot of elements together – I think that’s how my life is,” said Harjo, Muscokee / Creek, who is entering her third term as America’s Poet Laureate. “Most of the writers I know are extremely writers, all focused on literary studies, etc. My life is not like that.”
Harjo is widely known for her writings – poetry, children’s books, memoirs, and fiction. She sees writing and music interweaving with everything else in her life – her large family, her politics, the environment.
“I have to think of it as a big field of stories that all fit together,” she said in a phone interview from her home in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “It’s representative of my way of moving and thinking. Poetry is part of everything else. Right now, poetry is doing most of the work.
“And I love all kinds of music,” she continued. “Recently, I myself learned the piano, the guitar.
On her recent album “I Pray for My Enemies”, she performs her compositions on saxophones, flutes and bass.
“Poet Warrior,” the second memoir in a planned trilogy, contains memories of family, colleagues and mentors which she sees as challenges rather than hardships.
“Writing about them is always difficult until the writer has a fondness for it,” she said. “When I write about different things, I try to keep a compassionate perspective. You never know the whole story.
Poetry and stories are stitched together throughout the dissertation. In the opening part, “Ancestral Roots”, Harjo writes a poem of hope about a girl warrior who “will learn to make / the right decisions by making the wrong ones … You will meet again”.
Harjo talks about his mother “who loved words, especially the way they could move with music. … ”In his writing and his poetry.
Harjo remembers, as a young boy, finding a poem by Emily Dickinson that she liked to read aloud: “I’m nobody! Who are you? / Are you – Nobody – – Too much? / So there are two of us! “
Harjo loves the biblical psalms, which she considers to be poems. Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” “was a protective prayer poem. … The pace picks up and I imagine a leader who loves me… ”, she writes.
The part entitled “Becoming” shows the author’s thirst for ritual during his passage to adulthood; she believes the ritual creates belonging. In the “A Post-Colonial Tale” section, Harjo writes that she did not intend to be a poet. She began writing poetry at the same time as creating art and attending feminist events with other native students at the Kiva Club at the University of New Mexico. The seed of his poetry had come from the elders of his tribal nation of Oklahoma. This came about when she was with other Indian artists at the Santa Fe school before blossoming with friends at the Kiva Club. Hearing Acoma Pueblo’s Simon Ortiz read his poetry led Harjo to use poetry as a tool of justice. Her work led her to poetry by Leslie Marmon Silko of Laguna Pueblo, which led to Harjo writing a poem about Navajo activist Alva Mae Benson, and then becoming interested in several African poets.
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The publisher of Sandra Cisneros identifies her new, lively and compact book, “Martita, I remember you”, as a story. Critics call it the news.
“Novella suits me well because she has a density that one finds in a novel. To me, this is not news, ”Cisneros, a MacArthur scholar, said in a telephone interview from her home in San Antonio, Texas. The narrator of the book is Corina, nicknamed Puffina, a Mexican-American from Chicago who dreams of becoming a writer sitting in Parisian cafes as the Americans did in the 1920s. However, during the short time that Puffina is in the French capital, it lacks money, sleeps where it can find an empty towel and barely survives a freezing winter.
The most memorable passages are the vignettes of the friendships Puffina develops – which are lovingly remembered in correspondence years later – with two other young women leading difficult lives – Martita, from Argentina, and Paola, from Italy. .
Cisneros said the news came from a trip she took to the City of Lights and that there was a part of her in the three female characters. She hopes readers will think of “Martita” as relevant to current US immigration issues.
The book has a title in two languages. In English, it’s “Martita, I remember you”. In Spanish, “Martita, te recuerdo”. Cisneros thinks now is the right time to publish a bilingual adult book. “We now understand the public and how many Latinos are buying books,” she said.
Cisneros ‘famous 1984 novel, “The House on Mango Street”, is one of the choices in the current National Endowment for the Arts’ Big Read. At the same time, “Mango Street” was adapted into an opera. Cisneros writes the libretto and Derek Bermel (cq) the music.
Sandra Cisneros will be in conversation with Carmella Padilla about “Martita, I Remember You” at 6pm on Sunday September 12th during a Zoom event at collectworks bookstore.com