An American Sunrise

Joy Harjo. Norton, $25.95 (144p) ISBN 978-1-324-00386-1
Newly named poet laureate and Ruth Lilly prize–winner Harjo (Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings) intertwines verse with prose vignettes, oral histories, and flash memoirs in this expressive and generous book. In a fable about the origins of the saxophone that “made a rip in the sky,” she writes: “Musicians are musicians, no trick will get by./ You either have it, or want it/ Nothing else will fly.” Harjo exhibits this gift in the tight choreography of these pages, evoking the music of her Muskogee ancestors who were among the native peoples forcibly relocated by Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act of 1830. Music is “a sack that carries the bones of those left alongside/ The trail of tears,” she writes. Harjo offers poems of lament and praise, pleas for patience and calls to action: “In the fog of thin hope, I wander this sad world/ We’ve made with the enemy’s words.” Harjo invites the reader to consider the “many migrations stacked within sky memory,” including, most immediately, “the indigenous peoples who are making their way up from the southern hemisphere.” “Nothing is ever/ forgotten says the god of remembering,” she writes in tones that will speak to readers who are ready to remember, or to learn anew. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 10/17/2019
Release date: 09/10/2019
Genre: Poetry
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