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The Woman Who Fell from the Sky


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About the Author

Joy Harjo is an internationally known performer and writer of the Mvskoke/Creek Nation, the author of ten books of poetry and, most recently, a memoir, Crazy Brave. A critically acclaimed poet, her many honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Josephine Miles Poetry Award, the William Carlos Williams Award, and the American Indian Distinguished Achievement in the Arts Award. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.


Harjo sets 25 prayer-like prose poems in a spooky land of myth ("real as a scalp being scraped for lice"), depicting an ongoing moral "war" between forces of creation (northern lights, wolves) vs. destruction (alcoholism, Vietnam). Like contemporary Jobs, the people in these pieces search for an intelligible response to "the wreck of culture," their efforts symbolizing the impact of alienation on the psyche. Other passages (in italics) interpret multiple levels of myth and provide a personal account of the difficult lives of the Muscogee tribe (commonly called "Creek"). Coming to terms with a female Native American identity, Harjo seeks intergenerational bonds with wanderers and "lost travelers." Her work is blessed by a fine anthropomorphic imagination in which nature takes human form and humans are subsumed into elements, e.g., her dark hair appears "as lightning." In a celebration of tribal affiliation, Harjo seeks to find a place for the "unknowable" Native American spirit in contemporary American life. Exciting, but sad to read.-Frank Allen, West Virginia State Coll., Institute

``The leap between the sacred and profane is as thin as fishing line.'' In her seventh book, Harjo (Secrets from the Center of the World), a member of the Creek tribe, makes this leap time after time. Working with a diction and a syntax that seem deliberately plain and declarative, she invokes ancient Native American myth, often from the midst of ordinary contemporary places such as Brooklyn, N.Y.; Washington, D.C.; and Chicago's O'Hare airport (``Chicago rose up as a mechanical giant with soft insides buzzing''). Her myths endow everyday experience with a transformative meaning that rescues Harjo's characters from their sometimes isolating individuality. Yet the myths also heed the details of individual experience as ``the single complicated human becomes a wave of humanness.'' The warmth of her universalizing gift is inclusive, collecting the lives of taxi drivers, an infant granddaughter, and ``an Apache man who is passing by my table in a restaurant.'' Readers may likewise feel swept up in the gentle wave of Harjo's poetry and prose poetry, where ``every day is a reenactment of the creation story.'' (Dec.)

"I fell in love with these poems, with their clarity and light, their wisdom born somewhere between sky and earth." -- Sandra Cisneros "I turn and return to Harjo's poetry for her breathtaking, complex witness and for her world-remaking language: precise, unsentimental, miraculous." -- Adrienne Rich

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