(Masterpieces of American Literature)

“She Had Some Horses,” Harjo’s most frequently anthologized work, is the title poem from the 1983 collection of the same name. In it, she achieves a beautiful, chantlike quality by repeating the three words “She had horses” at the beginning of each line. She also uses the phrase “she had some horses” as a one-line refrain following each stanza. These poetic techniques not only unify the poem but also add emotional impact to its theme, a celebration of human nature in all of its aspects. The many characteristics attributed to the horses represent the many complicated facets of the human spirit.

In the first stanza, the horses are described as things that can be broken, ephemeral things that are hard to pin down: “bodies of sand,” “splintered red cliff,” and “skins of ocean water.” These are natural elements that can be damaged but will reemerge in some form. This is the cycle of nature, and the human spirit, too, follows this pattern.

In the next section, Harjo juxtaposes these images to human characteristics that are aggressive, protruding, and sharp: “horses with long, pointed breasts,” and “horses who licked razor blades.” These images, in contrast with those in the first stanza, reveal the threatening nature of humanity’s intrusion on the delicate balance of the natural order.

Harjo continues to symbolize human traits in the next two stanzas, which cover a wide range of human activity. “She...

(The entire section is 561 words.)