In her memoir, Crazy Brave, US Poet Laureate Joy Harjo lends the same stylized, lyrical free verse sensibilities found in her poetry to her prose. Reading both Harjo's poetry and prose is a testament to a primary motif she explores in Crazy Brave—the belief that "Every soul has a distinct song." As Harjo describes it,
Though I was reluctant to be born, I was attracted by the music. I had plans. I was entrusted with carrying voices, songs, and stories to grow and release into the world.
This motif of song surfaces in the stylistic, historical, and thematic layers present within the text.
Stylistically, Harjo utilizes poetic elements to elevate her prose beyond declarative sentences and to provide more metrical structure. She balances short, ethereal, and intimate statements about herself with more complex, sprawling descriptions of her family, which creates alternating rhythms within the text. The alternating rhythms that punctuate Harjo's lyrical style are also well-served by her use of diction that continuously connects her life to the songs she has felt creating, shaping, and changing her as a human being. Often, Harjo reflects and comments on the "rhapsody," "melody," and "rhythm" of her life while weaving the same elements through the prose itself. From the smallest units of each sentence to the full impact of a crafted paragraph, Harjo seeks to share not only the song of her soul but that of her ancestors as well.
Many of the voices, songs, and stories that Harjo carries with her were first sung by her ancestors, who walked the Trail of Tears and continue to occupy the spiritual realm. As a Native woman of Muscogee (Creek) and Cherokee descent, Harjo proudly shares the spiritual history of her ancestors while also lamenting the cultural atrocities they suffered. In her references to both soul and song, Harjo calls upon a spiritual tradition that celebrates communication beyond...
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