Joy Harjo American Literature Analysis
Joy Harjo’s American Indian heritage is an important part of her writing. In her poetry, she often uses Creek myths and symbols. By setting these within the larger context of American life, she illustrates the fears that lie below the surface of actions and events. Many of her poems tell about the lives of people, especially women, in which the natural order of things has been violated. Her images and musical poetic techniques emphasize the emotions present in these situations, and her themes point out a desire for harmony and order. To Harjo, realizing these fears is the first step to the self-knowledge needed to be free and empowered.
Using traditional Native American images juxtaposed with images of modern America enables Harjo to emphasize the clash of values. In her first collection, The Last Song, the poem “3am” describes two Indians in the Albuquerque airport standing amid the chrome and lights surrounding an airline ticket counter. They want to find their way back, “and the attendant doesn’t know that third mesa is part of the center of the world.” The Indians are at odds with the rest of the world, unable to find direction anywhere. Mainstream culture does not recognize ways other than its own. In “White Bear,” a later poem from the 1980 work She Had Some Horses, Harjo uses the same theme, describing a woman ready to board her flight in Albuquerque who stops in the tunnel leading to the plane. She sees her whole...
(The entire section is 3956 words.)
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