Joy Harjo VIDA Voices & Views Interview

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About this Episode:

In this episode of VIDA Voices and Views, produced by R. J. Jeffreys, Melissa Studdard speaks with celebrated poet, author, musician, and playwright, Joy Harjo, who talks about topics ranging from sources of inspiration to the power of language to effect change.

About Joy Harjo:

Poet, author, musician, and playwright Joy Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. Harjo’s seven books of poetry include such well-known titles as How We Became Human-New and Selected Poems, The Woman Who Fell From the Sky, and Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings. Among many other reasons, Harjo’s poetry is celebrated for its engagement with feminism and social justice; its examination of the limitations of language; and its use of First Nation histories, myths, and symbols. Harjo is also the author of the transcendent memoir, Crazy Brave, which details her journey to becoming a poet. Her books have garnered numerous awards including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas, the Josephine Miles Poetry Award, the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, and the American Indian Distinguished Achievement in the Arts Award. In addition to writing, Harjo is a multi-faceted artist who has released five award-winning CD’s of original music. As well, Harjo is Professor and Chair of Excellence in Creative Writing at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and is a founding board member of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation. In 2017, just a few days before this conversation, she was awarded the Ruth Lilly Prize in Poetry.

Joy Harjo Quotes from This Episode of VIDA Voices & Views:

“The spirit of poetry came to me and said, ‘you don’t know how to listen, and you don’t know how to speak. I will teach you.”

“A word, depending on where it’s placed, and at what time, can change everything.”

“You use what you have to create, and if that’s anger, you use it. You can turn it into something useful. If it’s fear, which is one I know about, it’s still energy that you can use.”

“Poems are beautiful little energetic cloud songs that carry so much. A poem can carry miles and miles of a place.”

“As a kid I was a go-to person because I was the one who would go to the library and look up everything everybody wanted to know.”

“My spirit said, ‘You can change the story,’ and I think it’s possible. We can change the story.”

“There are so many different ways to come at poetry, and they all have a place, but for me it was about finding a language that was closer to my original language, which was one that could speak what my spirit experiences and dreams. Things people know that don’t translate well in English can translate in poetry.” 

About VIDA Voices & Views:

VIDA Voices & Views is a video and audio interview program designed to call attention to a plurality of voices by interviewing writers, editors, publishers, series curators, anthologists, awards committee members, and other dedicated members of the literary community about their own work, vision, and concerns, as well as topics at the forefront of literary activism. The program seeks to contribute to a better understanding of the literary landscape and the issues facing artists of all genders, as well as to foster nuanced conversation about gender parity, race, disability, LGBTQ, economic, and other crucial issues impacting writers today.

To learn more about VIDA Voices & Views and to listen to our other interviews please visit: http://www.vidaweb.org/about-vida-voices-views/

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