After reading several of her books I feel one review of Joy Harjo is clearly not enough, and I doubt that two will be either, though I will not push it. As I delve into her poetic fare it is almost as if that side of my heritage that I was denied for many years strives to free itself from the confines of social and cultural deconstruction. Her words speak volumes to me, as if they are carried on the wind. They arrive not with any clang or clash, blast or blare, but initially with a whisper. But the whisper resonates. And with each reading the wind appears to change direction, and it carries new thoughts with each current, along with sweeping images, until clarity arrives in the voice of distant echoes. But with that clarity there also comes sorrow, for it arrives in the voice of my father: a translation of necessity. The raven’s caw strikes a chord within my soul, but I was never given the tongue of my maternal ancestors, and I am one who is deaf and dumb to the most distant of echoes from my heritage. And yet, like the deaf and dumb I still feel the vibration, the beat of my maternal ancestors. And I have been a drummer since childhood, and Harjo’s cadence alters the percussive beat within me from “Wipeout” to the community drum, and from “Cat Scratch Fever” to the Snake Dance.
I enjoy reading many writers, but it is rare to feel such a connection with a writer I have never met. But I am enjoying the literary-inspired reverie, albeit through mist and fog, yet there is a sense of kinship that, at times, makes me want to howl like Harjo (or Ginsberg) or any of the many wolves adorning the walls and shelves of my home. And, though she speaks with the flavor of sweet-grass and fry bread, and is confronted by Watermonster and other forms of the trickster, like Coyote, I see a flare for phrasing that marries compassion with cynicism, and wisdom with humor: combinations acquired through living, loving, and pain. Thus, it speaks truth – a truth easy to buy into and believe.
© JW Thomas