The University of the Pacific Guest Writers Series welcomed three-term poet laureate from the United States, musician and playwright Joy Harjo to campus via Zoom on October 28, 2021 to give a read of some of her work. Harjo gave a 45-minute read of several pieces of poetry, prose and song before holding a 15-minute question-and-answer session with the attendees.
Harjo is the first and only Native American Poet Laureate of the United States as a member of the Muscogee Nation of Oklahoma. During her reading, she said that her Native American identity greatly influences her work and is crucial to her career as an artist.
“I think I innately look into our communities and it’s part of what we do,” Harjo said when reading Zoom. She also explained how her family, especially her mother, originally sparked her interest in poetry and song.
“I do it just as it comes to me, that mixes up the song [and] poetry, ”Harjo said,“ I think I came to poetry not as an academic. I came here listening to my mom write songs.
She has read excerpts from various popular works, including poems “Maybe the World Ends Here”, “Somewhere” and “Fall Song”. Additionally, she played a recording of her well-known song, “This Morning I Pray for My Enemies” and read an excerpt from her new memoir called “Poet Warrior,” which were released in September. She recounts her experiences as an artist who found her vocation while preparing for a master’s degree in creative writing and being a single mother. The work Harjo read mixed spirituality and connection between people, frequently speaking of his belief that all people are more alike than different. She also reflected on her take on environmental healing, referring to her belief that humans are one and the same with the planet, and not separate entities.
Kyla Wilson, a senior creative writing major, who helped organize and host the event, said that as an artist, hearing Harjo read her work validated her for herself and others as creators.
“It was really inspiring and revealing, especially in today’s overrated art climate,” said Wilson, who is also a poet. She also added that being able to participate in hosting a poet of such fame and fame was surreal.
“She shaped the way American poetry looked during her last 3 terms as Poet Laureate,” Wilson said, “It was truly inspiring and revealing, especially in today’s art climate which is super devalued. ” – Isabelle Williams