April 26 – Joy Harjo won the 2019 Jackson Poetry Prize

Friday, April 26,
“. . . they begin in the ear and the eye,
they go on to live and hum inside the body . . . ”

Robin Bradford,  playwrite friend from San Francisco sent me word of Joy’s Jackson Poetry Prize this morning.   She led off her email with the words  “one of your faves.”  Surely true.  From the time that Joy and I met, student and teacher, 51 years ago until now she stands in my imagination as one immensely unanticipated surprise of grace.  Here’s a note from the Judges’ prize citation this week.

“Harjo’s work speaks not only to the world we live in, but to the unseen world that moves through us, the thread that has connected us all from the start…. Harjo’s poems embody a rich physicality and movement; they begin in the ear and the eye, they go on to live and hum inside the body…. Throughout her luminous and substantial body of work, there is a sense of timelessness, of ongoingness, of history repeating; these are poems that hold us up to the truth and insist we pay attention.”  From the judges’ prize citation.


And here is my most often cited and most deeply moving of her poems.   Best to read the poem out loud, with pauses, Absolutely!  Have a blest weekend.

john sj


Today’s Post:  “Grace”

Today’s Post  –  “Grace

I think of Wind and her wild ways the year we had nothing to lose and lost it anyway
in the cursed country of the fox. We still talk about that winter, how the cold froze
imaginary buffalo on the stuffed horizon of snowbanks.

The haunting voices of the starved and mutilated broke fences, crashed our thermostat
dreams, and we couldn’t stand it one more time.

So once again we lost a winter in stubborn memory, walked through cheap apartment
walls, skated through fields of ghosts into a town that never wanted us,
in the epic search for grace.

Like Coyote, like Rabbit, we could not contain our terror and clowned our way through a
season of false midnights.

We had to swallow that town with laughter, so it would go down easy as honey.

And one morning as the sun struggled to break ice, and our dreams had found us with
coffee and pancakes in a truck stop along Highway 80, we found grace.

I could say grace was a woman with time on her hands, or a white buffalo escaped from

memory. But in that dingy light it was a promise of balance.

We once again understood the talk of animals, and spring was lean and hungry with the
hope of children and corn.

I would like to say, with grace, we picked ourselves up and walked into the spring thaw.

We didn’t; the next season was worse.

You went home to Leech Lake to work with the tribe and I went south.

And, Wind, I am still crazy.

I know there is something larger than the memory of a dispossessed people. We have seen it.

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