(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

In Mad Love and War comprises two sections of poems expressing the conflicts and joys of Joy Harjo’s experiences as a Native American woman living in contemporary American culture. The poems draw on a wealth of experiences, including those relating to tribal tradition and sacredness of the land. Such positive experiences are compared to the sometimes grim realities inherent in the modern society in which Harjo lives.

The first section, titled “The Wars,” offers poetry that imagistically develops themes relating to oppression and to survival in the face of daunting problems of poverty, alcoholism, and deferred dreams. In her notable poem “Deer Dancer,” Harjo retells a traditional myth in the contemporary setting of “a bar of broken survivors, the club of shotgun, knife wound, of poison by culture.” Through the dance, the deer dancer becomes “the myth slipped down through dreamtime. The promise of feast we all knew was coming.” Like many of Harjo’s poems, “The Deer Dancer” ends with beauty being experienced amid lost hope and despair.

Many of the other poems in “The Wars” are political in nature, containing stark images of violence and deprivation, most notably her poem dedicated to Anna Mae Pictou Aquash, a member of the American Indian Movement whose murdered body was found on the Pine Ridge Reservation, and the poems “We Must Call a Meeting,” “Autobiography,” “The Real Revolution Is Love,” and...

(The entire section is 437 words.)


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Suggested Readings

Leen, Mary. “An Art of Saying.” American Indian Quarterly 19, no. 1 (Winter, 1995): 1-16.

Smith, Stephanie. “Joy Harjo.” Poets and Writers 21, no. 4 (July/August, 1993): 23-27.