'Soul Talk' With Joy Harjo
A conversation with the first Native American poet laureate of the United States on the importance of our "poetry ancestors," and why we must always "remember the dance language is, that life is."
By Michael Judge
Remember you are all people and all people are you. Remember you are this universe and this universe is you. Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you. Remember language comes from this. Remember the dance language is, that life is. Remember.
Those wise and healing lines come from “Remember,” the first poem Joy Harjo recited as the first Native American U.S. poet laureate, playing the alto sax and traditional flute in turn with her jazz band, Poetic Justice, at her inaugural reading in Washington, D.C., in September 2019.
As you may have guessed by now, Harjo, who was born in 1951 in Tulsa, Okla., and is a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, is not your typical poet laureate. Her right hand dancing with intricate Muscogee tattoos, she recites her poems in a rhythm somewhere between the Beats of the 1950s and today’s spoken-word crowd, accompanied by her band, when possible, in a truly American marriage of poetry, jazz and Native American stories,…