Joy Harjo

Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings

Griffin Poetry Prize 2016
International Shortlist

Book: Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings

Poet: Joy Harjo

Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company

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Joy Harjo

Biography

Joy Harjo is an internationally known performer and writer of the Mvskoke/Creek Nation, the author of ten books of poetry and, most recently, a memoir, Crazy Brave. A critically acclaimed poet, her many honours include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Josephine Miles Poetry Award, the William Carlos Williams Award, and the American Indian Distinguished Achievement in the Arts Award. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Judges’ Citation

“Joy Harjo has been a crucial figure in American letters for decades, and her latest collection, Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings, presents her at the height of her powers. Intermingling Mvskoke storytelling, rock-and-roll lyrics, cityscapes and personal address, Harjo’s poems are at once sweeping in their concerns and intimate in their tone and approach. Harjo’s is a poetics that is not afraid to speak directly when the moment warrants, nor to refer to traditions – literary traditions, folk traditions, musical traditions – with effortless erudition. Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings is a book of transitions and transformations, inhabiting liminal spaces like hotel rooms and deteriorating natural landscapes. The poems urge engagement, but they also encourage a wider perspective, because for Harjo even ‘the edge between life and death is thinner than a dried animal bladder.’ In the midst of profound change both personal and global, these poems offer guidance and empathy, ceremony and admonishment, wisdom, comfort and song.”

Summary

Joy Harjo’s long-anticipated new collection, Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings continues the work we have come to know her for – poems that connect personal experience, nature, the political, the feminist, Native American history and myth, the subconscious. Harjo sees poets as “the workers for justice, / the dancers of ceremony, the singers of heartache, / the visionaries, all makers and carriers of fresh / meaning.” For Harjo, life, work, and poem cannot really be separated; these poems speak out of the wisdom of all the years of Harjo’s life and poetry, and they speak into the work Harjo sees to be done in the world. These poems are observations and instructions.

Note: Summaries are taken from promotional materials supplied by the publisher, unless otherwise noted.

Joy Harjo reads Equinox

Equinox

I must keep from breaking into the story by force,
If I do I will find a war club in my hand
And the smoke of grief staggering toward the sun,
Your nation dead beside you.

I keep walking away though it has been an eternity
And from each drop of blood
Spring up sons and daughters, trees
A mountain of sorrows, of songs.

I tell you this from the dusk of a small city in the north
Not far from the birthplace of cars and industry.
Geese are returning to mate and crocuses have
Broken through the frozen earth.

Soon they will come for me and I will make my stand
Before the jury of destiny. Yes, I will answer in the clatter
Of the new world, I have broken my addiction to war
And desire.
I have buried the dead, and made songs of the blood,
The marrow.

From Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings by Joy Harjo

Copyright © 2015 by Joy Harjo

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