What does the poem "Remember" by Joy Harjo mean?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

“Remember” by Joy Harjo provides a series of instructions to advance and enhance a person’s life. Using the second person pronoun “you” personalizes the poem and allows the reader to feel as though the poet is speaking directly to her. The poem encourages the reader to assert her ability to survive in the modern world. 

The poem uses the word “remember” as a refrain to emphasize the guidance that the poet provides. This word introduces every new idea presented.  This is a characteristic of Harjo’s poetry symbolizing the idea that the poem might be thought of as a Native American chant. Another characteristic of her poetry is the reference to the natural world: universe, sky, and star.

What are the reminders provided in the poem?

Sunrise is the most important time of day

Look at the sunset as it brings the night.

Always value mothers who give man breathe and survival.  Never forget how hard it was to give birth. The reader is a part of the mother and her ancestors.

Welcome the father because without him there would be no life.

The earth gives the colors to all people: white, red, yellow, black. Nature can be segregated into many parts.  Become a part of the natural world by talking and listening to it. The flora and fauna are alive.

Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have

their tribes, their families, their histories, too.  Talk to


Listen to them.  They are alive poems.

The wind speaks and tells the story of the universe.

Every group of people connects to the others. Man cannot isolate himself.  He must be a part of the rest of the world.  Never be stagnant.  Grow.  Allow the language of life to dance within.

What wonderful advice for a person to include in his life! The connection to  nature and and the human race frees the person to live life to its fullest.