cover image Poet Warrior: A Memoir

Poet Warrior: A Memoir

Joy Harjo. Norton, $25 (240p) ISBN 978-0-393-24852-4

In a gorgeous and meditative work that blends poetry, philosophy, and nonlinear narrative, U.S. poet laureate Harjo (Crazy Brave) delivers a lyrical homage to her Creek Nation family. Her reflections travel through multiple territories: ancestral stories of Muscogee forced migration to Oklahoma; memories of her charming, womanizing father who abandoned the family; her life as a poet and teacher; and the words of other poets who influenced her. The thread that tethers each story is Harjo’s late mother. Throughout, Harjo drifts in and out of dreams that bring her mother back to her, while reminiscing on her mother’s talent as an orator, and shifts to painful moments in which her mother allowed the sexual, mental, and physical abuse of Harjo by her stepfather. Though Harjo’s life was enriched with other maternal figures—including her “earliest mentor,” the poet and activist Meridel Le Sueur, and Audre Lorde, whose “wisdom songs folded into the consciousness of my poetry”—no woman could replace the one who gave birth to her. In her mother’s final hours, Harjo writes, “I breathed with her.... Later, I would realize I was midwifing my mother through to her next life.” This mesmerizing story is a pleasure to get lost in. Agent: Kathleen Anderson, the Shipman Agency. (Sept.)