Magazine article World Literature Today

Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings

Magazine article World Literature Today

Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings

Article excerpt

Joy Harjo. Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings. New York. W.W. Norton. 2015. 160 pages.

This is not merely a book of poetry. These are instructions for the soul, a song to lead the reader home. With Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings, the first lady of American Indian poetry arrives. In this volume, Joy Harjo reaches her full maturity as a poet and as a human being, a teacher for us all. This book is as precise as a ceremony and just as serious. Its subject matter is at the same time the story of Harjo's people, the poet's personal story, and the human metanarrative; it is life and the lessons we each must learn and pass on to future generations.

Harjo's form, as we have come to expect, is grounded more in indigenous structures than in those of the Western canon. Divided into four sections for the four sacred directions of American Indian ontologies and the four phases of life, Harjo's poetic offerings bring us the lessons she has learned that have brought her to spiritual maturity as an elder, a seer, a mystic, a singer, which brings us to healing and wholeness. These poems trace a life impacted by history, genocide, and Indian boarding school. They trace a journey through loss, abandonment, and heartbreak carried by song: Creek stomp dance, the ceremony that keeps the beat of the heart going, the drums of the ancestors; round dance song; a Creek lullaby; disco; powwow songs; Forty-Nine songs; Creek Sunrise song; and, of course, Harjo's signature blues and jazz, the winds working with her to sing through her sax. …

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