(Masterpieces of American Literature)

“Javelina” is an example of Harjo’s prose poetry. The poem consists of four “paragraphs,” with a two-line stanza appearing between the second and third. Harjo aligns herself firmly with those “born of a blood/ who wrestled the whites for freedom” and who have “lived dangerously in/ a diminished system.” Comparing a young woman with the wild boar, the javelina, Harjo tells the story of a displaced young American Indian couple coming to the city.

Harjo introduces the javelina in the first stanza. At dusk, the animal comes out to feed. History, though, has violated the natural order of things. Housing developments have encroached upon the desert, so the javelina has learned to live and forage among the trappings of civilization. The setting then switches to the city. The poet describes driving the streets of South Tucson, an area of poor housing and ethnic minorities, where she identifies with a young Indian woman who is standing at a pay phone holding a baby. The poet imagines why the woman may be there: Perhaps her car has broken down, or perhaps she needs a job. Like the wild boar, the woman seeks sustenance in an alien environment. The poet feels a kinship with both the animal and the woman. Both know the displacement of the natural ways by the white civilization, which does not allow them room to grow.

The poet wishes that she could stop the car and tell the young woman that all will be well for her and her child, that...

(The entire section is 543 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Adamson, Joni. “And the Ground Spoke: Joy Harjo and the Struggle for a Land-Based Language.” In American Indian Literature, Environmental Justice, and Ecocriticism: The Middle Place. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2001.

Bryson, J. Scott. “Finding the Way Back: Place and Space in the Ecological Poetry of Joy Harjo.” MELUS 27 (Fall, 2002): 169-196.

Keyes, Claire. “Between Ruin and Celebration: Joy Harjo’s In Mad Love and War.” Borderlines: Studies in American Culture 3, no. 4 (1996): 389-395.

Lobo, Susan, and Kurt Peters, eds. American Indians and the Urban Experience. Walnut Creek, Calif.: Altamira Press, 2001.

Riley, Jeannette, Kathleen Torrens, and Susan Krumholz. “Contemporary Feminist Writers: Envisioning a Just World.” Contemporary Justice Review 8 (March, 2005): 91-106.

Scarry, John. “Representing Real Worlds: The Evolving Poetry of Joy Harjo.” World Literature Today 66 (Spring, 1992): 286-291.