Thursday, 09 February 2023

American Life in Poetry: Granddaughters

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

Joy Harjo’s ode to family, to ancestry, and to the woman’s body, truly makes sense if we understand that for Harjo, there is no line separating the natural world and her human body — that for her the evolutionary impulse is one of the imagination: “I was a thought, a dream, a fish a wing.”

In “Granddaughters,” she celebrates the body and the dynamic force of nature.

Granddaughters
By Joy Harjo

I was a thought, a dream, a fish, a wing
And then a human being
When I emerged from my mother's river
On my father's boat of potent fever
I carried a sack of dreams from a starlit dwelling
To be opened when I begin bleeding
There's a red dress, deerskin moccasins
The taste of berries made of promises
While the memories shift in their skins
At every moon, to do their ripening


American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2019 by Joy Harjo, “Granddaughters” from An American Sunrise (W.W. Norton & Company, 2019.) Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2022 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W. Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.

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