Author Spotlight: Joy Harjo

Author Spotlight: Joy Harjo, 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States

The Woman Who Fell from the Sky  Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings, Joy Harjo

Poetry: The Woman Who Fell from the Sky, Joy Harjo

Poetry: Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings, Joy Harjo

 

This autumn, Joy Harjo will begin her term as the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States. She is the first Native American to hold this title. A member of the Muskogee Creek Nation, this Oklahoma poet has been an ambassador for Native Americans and for poetry for more than 40 years.

 

She is a poet and a musician, and in both of those roles she sees herself as a truth teller. Harjo’s poetry is not bound by form or rhyme. She rather looks to metaphor and analogy to express herself. One example from Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings is her poem/song Rabbit Is Up to Tricks. Rabbit was lonely, so he created man and taught him to steal. But the man stole everything: grain, gold, wives, animals. So…

 

Rabbit tried to call the clay man back,

but when the clay man wouldn’t listen

Rabbit realized he’d made a clay man with no ears.

 

Perhaps more overtly political is the title poem from Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings. Using statements on conflict resolution juxtaposed with broken promises and treaties between Native Americans and Washington, she condemns the abuses by the majority population using their own words.

 

The Woman Who Fell from the Sky has prose poems along with commentary by the author. Most of the poems tell stories of Native Americans struggling to hang on to their identity in a hostile world. They are often blunt, or as another reviewer put it, “stark and unadorned.” 

 

Joy Harjo’s work is direct, honest, and often painful. There is a beauty in the pain, though, that shines through. The truth that she tells is one we need to hear, and hopefully her role as Poet Laureate will amplify her voice.

The Woman Who Fell from the Sky Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings, Joy Harjo

Author Spotlight: Joy Harjo, 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States

Author Spotlight: Richard Bach

Author Spotlight: Richard Bach

Happy Birthday, Richard Bach, June 23

Quote: Richard Bach, “Fly free and happy beyond birthdays and across forever, and we’ll meet now and then when we wish, in the midst of the one celebration that never can end.”

 

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Richard Bach’s best known work is without a doubt Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Even though Jonathan Livingston Seagull was published as an adult book in the 70’s, my uncle and aunt gave it to me for my 10th birthday. I adored the story of a seagull’s stubborn pursuit in the joy of flying and took to doodling seagulls in flight for years down the margins of notebooks and homework. Jonathan Livingston Seagull truly fits the definition of a picture book — where both the text and pictures interact to tell the story together.

 

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Although, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, was my personal favorite growing up, indubitably, his Ferret Chronicles made the most impact on my family as a whole. The Ferret Chronicles is the sort of book series that should come with large warning labels and wrapped in caution tape. After reading the series to my children, son #1 asked for a pet ferret and wasn’t sidetracked from the idea even after I demanded an essay on the care of ferrets researched in our local library. And those critters lived for a long time, from the time my oldest was in elementary school till he was in high school.

The books in the Ferret Chronicles were favorite read-alouds when our boys were growing up. Son #2 appropriated the family copies of the Ferret Chronicles books for his forever bookshelf – those books he re-visits and re-reads like old friends. These books make for great shared reading for elementary aged children.

We gave our extended family the first book in the series, Rescue Ferrets at Sea, as Christmas gifts the year it came out because the ferrets as coast guard sailors were probably the closest to a book we’ve encountered about the Coast Guard. (This was a big deal to our family because my mom worked as the civilian personal officer on Governor’s Island a Coast Guard base in New York City’s harbor for many years before the base was closed.) Although, Rescue Ferrets at Sea, will probably be our all-time favorite Richard Bach book, the rest of the series is a fun romp that’s a mix of fairy tale and modern parable. Ferrets are always the lead characters who have an adventure that leads to personal growth.

 

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Author Spotlight: Richard Bach