National Book Festival Presents Joy Harjo

National Book Festival Presents Joy Harjo


>>Robin Soweka: [Native
American language] Hello, how are you all? [ Crowd cheers ] [ Native American language ] My name is Robin Soweka. I’m from the Beard
Clan [assumed spelling] and my tribal town
is Hickory Ground. And I’m from Oklahoma. [ Crowd cheers, applause ] [Native American
language] Thank you. [Native American language] I
was asked to say a few words in our native Muscogee language and I was very honored
when I got asked. [Native American language] Like I said earlier, I was from
Hickory Ground and the honoree, she’s also from Hickory Ground. And I’m representing the Ground. And it makes us real
proud that one of our own received this honor. [ Crowd cheers, applause ] [Native American language] As Muscogee people we carried
our sacred fires in the songs from our homelands to
present day Oklahoma, which we still carry
on that tradition. Our ceremonial ways,
our language, and our culture that’s
what makes us Muscogee. And we try to stress that
to our young warriors, in our young woman. Two traits. I grew up my whole life
as a traditionalist. Ever since I was able to go,
two traits was always taught us, and we try to teach that today. [Native American language]
Humbleness and love. That should be for everybody in
every walks of life, every day. [ Crowd cheers, applause ] [ Foreign language ] First of all, I left
out, I wanted to say — I wanted to thank the Creator
for giving us a beautiful day that we were able to
attend here today. [ Crowd cheers, applause ] [ Native American
language, applause ] The honoree, Miss Joy Harjo,
she wanted to accept this award, not only on her behalf but
for all the native women, from all the native
nations, from all over. [ Crowd cheers, applause ] Through hard work
and perseverance, anything can be accomplished. [Native American language]
In closing, I just wanted to give a big [Native
American language]. I’m real honored I
was asked to speak. I just want to say,
thank you, all. [Native American language]. [ Applause ]>>Please welcome to the
stage the 14th Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden. [ Applause ]>>Carla Hayden: Good
evening and welcome to the Library of Congress. I just have to start
by saying, wow. [Laughter]. What a wonderful turnout
for out new poet laureate. Greetings to the audience
in the overflow rooms and to everyone watching
the live stream. This proves that poetry rocks. [ Crowd cheers, applause ] And I’d like to thank Robin
Soweka, the Medicine Maker of the Muscogee Creek
Nations’ Hickory Ground for beginning tonight’s event
with a traditional opening. We thank you and we know
that there are other members of the Nation who have traveled
from Oklahoma to be here tonight and there is one special guest
we want to honor before I bring out our poet laureate. But first, I want to tell you about the Library’s New National
Book Festival Present Series. And as many of you know, the Library hosts the National
Book Festival every year at the Washington
Convention Center and we just celebrated it — celebrated it two weeks ago with
more than 140 authors and more than 200,000 attendees. [ Crowd cheers, applause ] And due to the success of the
Festival, we wanted to extend it to a year-long author
series that will culminate at the convention for
the 20th anniversary of the Festival in August 2020. And tonight is the
second event of the series and we couldn’t be more excited to have it begin Joy
Harjo’s laureateship. So, to find out more about the
National Book Festival Present and to check out library
treasures, you can discover them from anywhere in the
world, just visit loc.gov. You may know that the
library’s laureateship is over 80 years old and great
poets, such as Gwendolyn Brookes and Robert Frost have
held the position. And tonight, as I’ve said, many
people have traveled from far and wide to help us honor Joy as the new United
States poet laureate. [ Crowd cheers, applause ] On behalf of the Library
of Congress, I am honored to welcome Chief James Floyd. [ Applause ] And we have — [ Applause ] And we have a gift for you. It is a 1903 photograph of the Muscogee Creek leader
Chitto Harjo [assumed spelling] which comes — [ Applause ] Which comes from the Library’s
Prints and Photographs Division and was selected by the
poet laureate, herself. [ Applause ]>>Principal Chief James Floyd: [Native American
language] Hello. Hope you’re doing well tonight. It gives me pleasure to welcome
you to the program tonight. And on behalf of Muscogee Creek
Nation, as the Principal Chief, I extend my welcome
to you tonight. It’s such a pleasure to
be up here at this time. I wanted to speak a little bit
about the Muscogee Creek Nation. We are the fourth largest tribe
in the United States with more than 88,000 members
throughout the world. We have our headquarters
in Oklahoma. We live in Oklahoma now but we’re traditionally a
southeast tribe we call Seven States in the southeast
primarily our traditional homeland, most importantly
they’re the states of Alabama, Georgia,
and Florida. We were removed in
a Trail of Tears to Indian Territory
in the 1830s. The reason I bring that to
bear is that Joy is a citizen of Muscogee Creek Nation,
we have a beautiful history and beautiful culture to share. And we hope that you’ll see the
beauty of our people through Joy as she fulfills the poet
laureateship during her term. We are also a matrilineal
society and women play an important role in everything that
we do every day. And so we hope that you also see
that in the works that Joy has as she holds this position and
she goes out among the world. And so, we have already seen as
mentioned before the influence that she’s having
of the young women of Muscogee Creek Nation — and the women of
Muscogee Creek Nation and the women of the world. To bring them forth
the full powers that they have and
they should have. So, we’re very please
tonight and we hope that you enjoy the ceremony. And thank you of the
photograph of Chitto Harjo, a member of the Hickory
Ground, [inaudible]. So, very pleased to have that
and he plays a very important in the history of our nation
and, hopefully, you’ll learn and hear more about
that yourself. [Native American language]. [ Applause ]>>Carla Hayden: And
now on to our laureate. Five months ago,
after a long process that included nominations by
over 90 critics, scholars, art administrators, and previous
poet laureates, I got a chance to give Joy Harjo a call. Now she had been told by the
Poetry and Literature Center that we had quick
question to ask. [Laughter]. And I got straight to the point. Would she serve as the
United States poet laureate? [ Whoop from audience,
laughter ] That’s how we felt. [Laughter]. Everyone in the office that
day was excited about the call. Crowded around. We had seen advanced copies of
an American Sunrise and we felt that it would be the perfect
collection to coincide with her laureateship. And we knew that over the course of nearly a half-century-long
career she had published so many great and
necessary books, from early poetry collections such as She Had Some
Horses and In — [ Applause ] In Mad Love and War — [ Applause ] To her recent memoire,
Crazy Brave. [ Applause ] We also knew Joy to be
an award-winning musician who had long championed the
power of voice and song, as well as a dedicated
teacher and mentor for generations of writers. And we felt proud that Joy,
as a member of the Nation, would serve as our first
Native American poet laureate. [ Applause ] Back to the call. [Laughter]. Crowded around. Well, there was a pause. And we felt that we had caught
her a little bit by surprise. But thankfully she said yes. And so, we’re here tonight
to celebrate the start of her historic and much
anticipated laureateship. She has already done so
much on behalf of poetry. But the country and the
world will gain even more from her appointment. She will continue to help
all of us see the world anew and understand our past,
connect us to who we are, and where we are and
show us, hopefully, how we can move forward
together. So, please, join me in
welcoming the 23rd poet laureate consultant in poetry, Joy Harjo. [ Applause, cheers ]>>Joy Harjo: This
room is all my family. You can tell. [ Laughter ] You know, this is
the power of poetry. It’s brought all of us here. I’m going to start out and thank
you [Native American language] Soweka, and Chief,
and Carla and this. It’s amazing because that,
you know, that’s how it is. Poetry doesn’t just emerge. It emerges from the
soul of a community, from a community’s history,
mythological structures, the heart of the people. And it all goes back to the
land because we are the earth. And so we’re here tonight
to celebrate poetry. I’m going to start out with
the land acknowledgement. Please bear with me,
with my system here. [Laughs]. We gratefully acknowledge
the Native peoples, on whose ancestral homelands
we are gathered together this evening, as well as the diverse
and vibrate native communities who make their home here. And also, remember all those
tribal nation representatives who came here and
continued to arrive here in this city to seek justice. [ Applause ] Thank you. I’m joined here with my band. I’ve got Robert Muller here. [ Applause ] Howard Cloud on bass. [ Applause ] Larry Mitchell on guitar. [ Applause ] I’ll introduce them more
fully in a little bit. I was back there
making up bios for them. [Laughter]. Fictionalized bios. Anyway, we’re really honored
to be here to celebrate poetry. And we’re going to start out,
it’s going to be chronological. One of the earliest poems,
actually, was Remember. Because poetry has been
one of my biggest teachers and it’s taught me — it
teaches me how to listen. I was the least likely
person to be a poet. I was going to be a painter like
my grandmother, Naomi Harjo, and my Aunt Lois Harjo. And because I could
paint and paint and I didn’t have to speak. But one night poetry came to me
and said, you’re coming with me. You need to learn how to listen
and, yes, we know it’s going to be a hard road, especially
for us who are teaching you. And I took it on and it’s
been my biggest teacher. Because when you go into the
place of poetry as a writer or a reader of poetry, you go
into that place beyond time. You go into the place
beyond words. It’s — and you find
things there. You can find — you
can find yourself. You find ancestors. You find out that those
stones nearby can speak and the trees have
their own language. Now the scientists are coming out with all kinds
of books about this. But this is part of
our all-knowledge. This is called Remember. For the ancestors here. [ Music ] Remember the sky
you were born under, know each of the star’s stories. Remember the moon,
know who she is. Remember the sun’s
birth at dawn, that is the strongest
point of time. Remember sundown and the
giving away to night. Remember your birth, how
your mother struggled to give you form and breath. You were evidence of her life,
and her mother’s, and hers. Remember your father. He is your life, also. Remember the earth whose skin
you are: red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth,
brown earth, we are earth. Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all
have their tribes, their families, their
histories, too. Listen to them. Talk to them. They are alive poems. Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the origin
of this universe. Remember that you are all
people and all people are you. Remember that you
are this universe and this universe is you. Remember language
that comes from this. Remember the dance that
language is, that life is. [ Music ] [ Applause ] Okay. I just — I need
to turn my mic on. And where is my mic? I also wanted to say that every
poem has poetry ancestors. Of course, I think of that poem. There’s always Walt
Whitman hanging out there. [ Laughter ] He’s always there. And I think of some
of our old songs that always remind
us to remember. Remember who we are. Remember to be humble. Remember that we’re
all here together. Okay. So, this is,
She Had Some Horses. [ Applause ] And the ancestors here,
there’s a lot of them. I think of my — I’m the 7th
generation from a [inaudible]. And he had a thing with horses. So, he’s part of this
and these traditional. When I started writing
poetry, I was a student at the University of New Mexico. And I heard a lot of
Navajo horse songs. Those are a part of this, too. And Alan Ginsburg, of course. [ Laughter ] There are several lineages. Okay. Go ahead horses. [ Music ] She had some horses. She had horses who
were bodies of sand. She had horses who were
maps drawn of blood. She had horses who were
skins of ocean water. She had horses who were
the blue air of sky. She had horses who were
clay and would break. She had horses who were
splintered red cliff. She had some horses. [Music] She had horses
with eyes of trains. She had horses with
full, brown thighs. She had horses who
laughed too much. She had horses who threw
rocks at glass houses. She had horses who
licked razor blades. She had some horses. [ Music ] She had horses who danced
in their mothers’ arms. She had horses who
thought they were the sun and their bodies shone
and burned like stars. She had horses who waltzed
nightly on the moon. She had horses who were
much too shy, and kept quiet in stalls of their own making. She had some horses. She had horses who liked
Creek Stomp Dance songs. She had horses who
cried in their beer. She had horses who
spit at male queens who made them afraid
of themselves. She had horses who said
they weren’t afraid. She had horses who lied. She had horses who
told the truth, who were stripped
bare of their tongues. She had some horses. [ Music ] She had horses who called
themselves, “horse.” She had horses who called
themselves, “spirit,” and kept their voices
secret and to themselves. She had horses who had no names. She had horses who
had books of names. She had some horses. [ Music ] She had horses who
whispered in the dark, who were afraid to speak. She had horses who screamed
out of fear of the silence, who carried knives to protect
themselves from ghosts. She had horses who
waited for destruction. She had horses who
waited for resurrection. She had some horses. [Music] She had horses who got down on their knees
for any savior. She had horses who thought
their high price had saved them. She had horses who
tried to save her, who climbed in her bed
at night and prayed. She had some horses. [ Music ] She had some horses she loved. She had some horses she hated. These were the same horses. [ Music ] [ Applause ] I’m not always logical in how
I proceed and playing saxophone and having to read at the same
time doesn’t always make sense. [Laughter]. But I’ve always loved the
voice of the saxophone. I came to poetry
through music, also. I mean, way, way back music,
poetry, and dance they all came into the world together
and they get lonely for each other sometimes. This next poem came
when I needed it. Well, they all do. Sometimes they come and I
don’t think I need them. I don’t know who they are. They’re strange, sometimes. I’ve wonder — sometimes I’ll
wonder what is this about? Even, like, the book,
An American Sunrise, I’m still looking at it. Okay, I know the impulse. I know how it started but — and
I’ve been through this journey and it’s just now I’m starting to get what you were
trying to teach me. This next one came at
a time, it’s called, I Give You Back or Fear Poem. And one of its poetry
ancestors is Audrey Lorde and her poem Litany
for Survival. And I also think of the
Muscogee songs for, you know, how you can transform to
stop storms from your path and we all need to be able
to do that because everyone of us has storms in our path. And this poem came when I
needed it and, you know, like [inaudible] I
almost didn’t make it. You know, I came up through
— this whole country. It’s not just native people who
deal with historical trauma. It’s the whole country. You know, it’s not
just — it’s all of us. All of us. This is all part of our story and we all have a
part of this story. We all have our poems that
are part of the story. I release you, my
beautiful and terrible fear. I release you. You were my beloved and
hated twin, but now, I don’t know you as myself. I release you with all
the pain I would know at the death of my children. You are not my blood anymore. I give you back to the soldiers
who burned down our homes, beheaded our children, raped and sodomized our
brothers and sisters. I give you back to those who
stole the food from our plates when we were starving. I release you, fear, because you
hold these scenes in front of me and I was born with eyes
that can never close. I release you. I release you. I release you. I release you. I am not afraid to be angry. I am not afraid to rejoice. I am not afraid to be black. I am not afraid to be white. I am not afraid to be hungry. I am not afraid to be full. I am not afraid to be hated. I am not afraid to be loved,
to be loved, to be loved, fear. Oh, you have choked me,
but I gave you the leash. You have gutted me but
I gave you the knife. You have devoured me, but I
laid myself across the fire. I take myself back, fear. You are not my shadow
any longer. I won’t hold you in my hands. You can’t live in my eyes,
my ears, my voice, my belly, or in my heart, my
heart, my heart, my heart. But come here, fear, I am alive
and you are so afraid of dying. [ Applause ] And with this one, so I
left — I’m from Oklahoma. [ Laughs, applause ] I was raised there. A member of [inaudible]
Grounds, my family. I grew up with people
who love me but we were all going
through a lot. But that love sustains. Even as a kid, you
can look at — sometimes you get moments
where you can see the story. Children are more capable of — they see and know more than what
we often give them credit for. I mean, go back to when
you were a small child and you could see
the whole story. You kind of knew
what was going on. But I wound up going and part
of it, too, was, I think, artists go through this and then
you add being a Native artist and then a female artist, then you can feel a little
uncomfortable in the world or trying to find how you fit,
you know, how you’re going to do what you’re going to do. And I got the opportunity. I was actually almost
going to go to Chilocco. I went to sign up because I
wanted to go to Indian school. And they said — as we were
leaving the office my mother said, she can draw. So they sent me to the Institute of American Indian
Arts, which, yes. [ Applause ] Which at that time was Bureau of Indian Affairs School
and run by the BIA. And it was quite an incredible
experiment in education, where we had the best art
teachers like Ellen Hauser and Fred Shoulder and Otto
Lee Loom [assumed spellings]. All these incredible
arts teachers and then we had an
antiquated system of, like, the Bureau language,
Army language, and you still weren’t allowed
to speak your native language at school, even — and
that was the late ’60s. I guess that’s a long, long
time ago for some of you. [Laughter]. In the olden days. But it’s at school
save — saved my life. And good teachers
are part of that. And I — because and then
I wound up — it did. It saved my life. And now it’s turned into this
wonderful school, college. And people had that
vision all along. And I’m honored to
be part of that. So, anyway, I wound up there
at University of New Mexico, KIVA Club and part of the
Native Rights Movement and the poetry started. That’s when I started
writing poetry [inaudible]. Because there was something
that needed to be said. And I didn’t want to
be the one to say it. I would never speak up. I was told I was one of the
shyest kids at Indian School. That’s pretty shy. [ Laughter ] But then this poetry, this
poetry started moving about. And I want to acknowledge
my first poetry here, David Johnson, at the
University of New Mexico. [ Applause ] Where are you? [ Applause ] Where are you, David? Can’t see you. [ Applause ] Anyway, he’s here. He is here. And this song — the Earth
asks very little for us humans and we’re even failing the very
little the Earth asks of us because we’re all in
a crisis right now. Because we need to learn
to listen all of us. And poetry is one
of those means. You can listen to the
Earth, you know, if you — the Earth has all kinds
of songs but often it’s in poetry you can hear them. And this is in honor
of this beautiful land. It’s called, My House
Is the Red Earth. [ Music ] This is putting my — wetting my
reed and putting it on prelude. [ Laughter, music ] My house is the red earth; it could be the center
of the world. I’ve heard New York, Paris,
Tokyo called the center of the world, but I say it
is magnificently humble. You could drive by and miss it. Radio waves can obscure it. Words cannot construct it,
for there are some sounds left to sacred wordless form. For instance, that fool crow, picking through trash near the
corral, understands the center of the world as greasy
strips of fat. Just ask him. He doesn’t have to say that
the earth has turned scarlet through fierce belief, after
centuries of heartbreak and laughter-he perches
on the blue bowl of the sky, and laughs. [ Music ] If you look with the mind of the swirling earth near
Shiprock you become the land, beautiful. And understand how three crows
at the edge of the highway, laughing, become three crows at
the edge of the world, laughing. [ Music ] Don’t bother the earth
spirit who lives here. She is working on a story. It is the oldest
story in the world and it is delicate, changing. If she sees you watching she
will invite you in for coffee, give you warm bread, and
you will be obligated to stay and listen. But this is no ordinary story. You will have to endure
earthquakes, lightning, the deaths of all those you
love, the most blinding beauty. It’s a story so compelling
you may never want to leave; this is how she traps you. See that stone finger
over there? That is the only one
who ever escaped. [ Music ] [ Applause ] This next poem is a — poetry ancestor of this next
poem is Alfred Lord Tennyson’s, The Eagle and King David psalms
23, the Lord is my shepherd. And then the poem also came
because of an eagle who urged me to go after I had
been taking part in — An acknowledgement and I
went back and this poem — wrote this poem because of that. Eagle Poem. To pray you open
your whole self. To sky, to earth,
to sun, to moon, to one whole voice that is you. And know there is more that
you can’t see, can’t hear. Can’t know except in
moments steadily growing, and in languages that
aren’t always sound but other circles of motion. Like eagle that Sunday
morning over Salt River. Circled in blue sky in wind, swept our hearts clean
with sacred wings. We see you, see ourselves
and know that we must take the utmost
care and kindness in all things. Breathe in, knowing we are
made of all this, and breathe, knowing we are truly
blessed because we were born, and die soon within a
true circle of motion, like eagle rounding out
the morning inside us. We pray that it will
be done in beauty. In beauty. Beauty. Beauty. [ Applause ] Perhaps the World Ends Here. I call it the Kitchen
Table Poem. I always think of
Jane Cortez, too. I really miss her
and her poetry. When I started writing poetry
at the University of New Mexico, I went to — I was trying to — what partly got me writing
is finding Native poets. That there were Native poets
writing about our lives. And so, I think, who else is
writing real indigenous Native kind of poetry? So, I went to Africa
and found African poets. So, they’re also poetry
ancestors here in this poem. Perhaps the world ends here. The world begins
at a kitchen table. No matter what, we
must eat to live. The gifts of earth are brought
and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since
creation, and it will go on. We chase chickens or
dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their
knees under it. It is here that children
are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it,
we make women. At this table we
gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers. Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms
around our children. They laugh with us at our
poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves
back together once again at the kitchen table. This table has been
a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun. Wars have begun and
ended at this table. It is a place to hide
in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate
the terrible victory. We have given birth
on this table, and have prepared our
parents for burial here. At this table we sing
with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering
and remorse. We give thanks. Perhaps the world will
end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing
and crying, eating of the last sweet bite. [ Applause ] Now most of you I’ve
met on the road. I’ve known you — I mean, I’ve
been doing this, I realized, I didn’t — I think, it’s
been at least 50 years since I started writing poetry. And I started — [ Applause ] Writing poetry around the
time my daughter was — Rainy Dawn, was born. She has an older brother, Phil. But it was around that time. And David Johnson, my first
poetry teacher, knows about that because we would go — he was
always taking us to do readings and this is how I used to read. [ Laughter ] But — and that’s true. But and then I got a horn and
you can’t hide with a horn. [Laughter]. So, yes, he would take us around and I never would
have thought — I remember even saying at Indian
School, because we were signing up for classes and my best
friend was signing up for drama and I said, I will
never get on a stage. [ Laughter ] Words are very powerful. [ Laughter ] Well, they are. I mean, you are making
your life and your road with your words,
with your prayers. I think of poems as prayers. I adore John Coltrane. He’s one of my saxophone
ancestors and — [ Applause ] He said he was always
talking to God, the Creator. I think that’s what
we artists do. You know, we’re talking,
you’re participating. You’re being a participant
when you create and share. So, I’ve been on the road
for quite a long time, not constantly, but on the road. And I met wonderful people. I’ve only had to
have somebody get out of the driver’s
seat once and take over and drive myself, in driving. But people picking
me up at the airport. But so much goes
into all of this. And — anyway, this poem came. It’s called, Equinox. And it came when I was waiting
to be picked up somewhere up in the middle of Michigan. And I was standing there in the
dusk, listening to the birds. They were acknowledging sundown. And then what the spirit of poetry told me is
that this is okay. You listen to these birds
and you listen, you know, you watch they’re
acknowledging — they’re not acknowledging
the day. They are letting the day go. And what if you let the day
go, let all those things that build up, you know, sometimes we say something we
shouldn’t have or not, you know, we’re all human beings. But what if you let all those
aches and hurts and bad words, let them go with the sun. Just let them go. Because the sun is letting go
as it leaves on its journey. And so, we let it go. And I started thinking of
all the things I let go. Like I always say,
my list of failures. You might hear about
the cool awards and things I — that
have happened. But it’s followed by a
long list of failures that would go out that door. And then at sunrise, that’s
why so many of the people who know things, the people
that you want to listen to, they’re often up at
sunrise or they stay up all night, praying, painting. Yes. Well, that’s another story. [ Laughter ] And there’s a reason
that the sun is — when it comes up over
that point, I mean, now the scientists will
say they can prove this. But it’s true. There’s a lot of — it’s a gift. And it comes up over that
horizon and it spreads out and it’s saying, you
know, you are loved. You are here because you
were created by a Creator who loves you and
wants you to behave. [Laughter]. But it’s a good time to
get up and say thank you. [Foreign language]. For this new day, for
this new opportunity to start all over again. And to ask for blessings
for those — for people. So, this is about
standing there, at dusk, thinking about trying
to let things go. Equinox. [ Music ] I must keep from breaking
into the story by force. If I do I will find a war
club in my hand and the smoke of grief staggering
toward the sun, your nation dead beside you. [ Music ] I keep walking away though
it has been an eternity and from each drop of sun
springs up sons and daughters, and trees, a mountain
of sorrows, of songs. [ Music ] I tell you this from
the dusk of a small city in the north not far from the
birthplace of cars and industry. Geese are returning to mate
and crocuses have broken through the frozen earth. [ Music ] Soon they will come for me and I will make my stand
before the jury of destiny. Yes, I will answer in the
clatter of the new world, I have broken my
addiction to war and desire. [ Music ] [ Applause ] This next piece is
a song from — my version of a song
by Jim Pepper. Muscogee Creek and Kaw. It’s called Witchi-tai-to. But we’ve included in it is
one of my poems, The Fight. You know, the fight. We’re all involved in
the fight within us. At some point, really, it’s
about finding the balance. So, much in our — I think in
our Muscogee culture and a lot of our — it’s really
about finding a balance. Because we are from, you
know, we have the house of the peacemakers, the
house of the warriors. It’s about balancing. So, this is Witchi-tai-to. [ Music, Native American ] Witchi-witchi-tai to. Water spirit feelin’ springin’
round my head makes me feel glad that I’m not dead. The rising sun paints the feet
of night crawling enemies. And they scatter into
the burning hills. I have fought each of them. I know them by name. [ Music ] From before I could speak, I used every weapon
to make them retreat. Yet, they return every
night if I don’t keep guard. They elbow through openings in
faith, tear the premise of trust and stick their shields
through the doubt of smoke to challenge me. I go tired of the heartache
of every small and large war, passed from generation to
generation to generation. But it is not in me to give up. I was taught to give honor
to the house of the warriors, which cannot exist without
the house of the peacemakers. [ Music ] [ Applause ] That was Robert Muller. [ Applause ] Howard Cloud. [ Applause ] And Larry Mitchell. [ Applause ] This next one is called
Rabbit Is Up to Tricks. [ Laughter ] So, rabbit is our
trickster figure. Every human culture
has trickster figures. Some of them are coyote. Some they have jesters. And often you find the
trickster figure sits close to the person in power. [ Laughter ] Until in some instances they
take over the seat of power. [ Laughter ] And that’s all I need to say. [Laughter] And this is
a contemporary rabbit trickster story. You’ll see what I mean. [ Music ] In a world long before this one,
there was enough for everyone, until somebody got out of line. We heard it was Rabbit, fooling
around with clay and the wind. Everybody was tired of his
tricks and no one would play with him and he was
lonely in this world. So Rabbit thought
to make a person. And when he blew into the
mouth of that crude figure to see what would happen,
the clay man stood up. Rabbit showed the clay man
how to steal a chicken. The clay man obeyed. Then he showed him
how to steal corn. The clay man obeyed. Then he showed him how to
steal someone else’s wife. And that clay man obeyed. Rabbit felt important
and powerful. And clay man felt
important and powerful. And once that clay man
started, he could not stop. Once he took that chicken,
he wanted all the chickens. And once he took that corn,
he wanted all the corn. And once he took that wife,
well, he wanted all the wives. He was insatiable. Then he had a taste of gold
and he wanted all the gold. Soon it was land and
anything else he saw. His wanting only
made him want more. Soon it was countries,
and then it was trade. The wanting infected the earth. We lost track of the
purpose and meaning for life. We began to forget our
songs, our stories. We could no longer see
or hear our ancestors, or talk with each other
across the kitchen table. Forests were being mowed down
all over the world to make more. And Rabbit had no
place left to play. Rabbit’s trick had backfired. Rabbit tried to call
the clay man back. But when that clay
man wouldn’t listen, Rabbit realized he’d made
a clay man with no ears. [ Music ] This morning I prayed
for my enemies. And whom do I call my enemy? An enemy must be
worthy of engagements. I turn in the direction of
the sun and keep walking. It’s my heart that askes the
question, not my furious mind. The heart is the smaller
cousin of the sun. It sees and knows everything. It hears the gnashing, even
as it hears the blessing. The door to the mind should
only open from the heart. An enemy who gets in, risks the
danger of becoming a friend. [ Music ] [ Applause ] Thank you. Thank you, so much. We’re going to do
two more pieces. This one is from my new book. It’s one of my favorite poems
in there, is My Mine’s Feet. [ Laughter ] He’s looking at me, oh no. [ Laughter ] His feet are becoming
very famous. [ Laughter ] But it’s to honor. You know, I think of a poetry
ancestor as Lucille Clifton. [ Applause ] About those hips of hers. [Laughter]. And anyway. This is also a poem
about our journey as Muscogee Creek people. Because we were — it wasn’t that long ago, seven
generations. I was thinking of this when
I was working on my memoir. I was thinking, you
know, about my generation and we were asking these
questions and coming up and honoring our
ancestors as saying, okay, who are we becoming
and looking at history. And I thought, it really
hit me, when I added it up, we were seven generations
from that time of removal. And you know, it happened
here in this country just like it’s happening right now
with the children at the border. You know, those are
native people. It’s migration. People are, you know,
these borders are — you know, the earth is — the
Western Hemisphere is a person. This globe is a person. So, in this poem, My Man’s Feet,
because it’s about walking. We walked from Georgia,
Alabama, and we were all over the southeast and
as Chief said, I think, we’re the fourth largest nation. And I took a job in
Tennessee and University of Tennessee, Knoxville. A wonderful place and was
treated very well there. But partly because
we wanted to go back. And even though you get
warned, don’t go back. And I realize now why
they say, don’t go back. because your heart can
break into a million pieces. And because you go back
and where are our people, where are the Muscogee
Creek people? We’re everywhere. Everywhere we went,
there were always — the remnants of our villages
all through the southeast. And that’s part of
the story of America. You know, we’re part
of the story. We have, you know, we’re all
— we have so many stories, all of us, to share
with each other. And the only way America
will hear this one, we all get a place at
the table and we all get to say our prayers, our
songs sing together, until all the stories have
— which we have a place. My Man’s Feet. They are heroic roots. You cannot mistake them for
any other six-foot walker. I could find them
in a sea of feet. A planet or universe of feet. They kicked the sky at birth. In that town his
great-grandfather found, my man’s feet left childhood,
past the mineral grit of an oil flush bus to these
atomic eastbound lands. His feet are made of his
mother’s spiritual concern and of his father, historic
and mindfully upright. What walkers, from mound
builder steps that led to the sky maker past
Spanish galleons, stage coach, and
railroad snaker. One generation following
another. No other feet but these could
bear the rock stubborn loyal bear, towering intelligence
and children picker upper. That is the one who
owns these feet. What an anchor his feet provide
for his unmatched immensibility and get up againality. [Laughter] I’ve danced
behind this man in the stomp dance circle,
our feet beating in rhythm, man woman, boy, girl,
son, and moon jumper. My man’s feet are the sure
steps of a father looking after his sons, his daughters. For when he laughs, he opens
all the doors of our hearts, even as he forgets to
shut them when he leaves. And when he grieves
for those he loves, he carves out valleys enough to hold everyone’s
tears with his feet. These feet. My man’s wisely humble,
ever-steady, beautiful, brown feet. [ Applause ] So, we’re going to
close with this song. And again, this is — this is
Robert Muller joining me here, keyboards from Santa
Fe, New Mexico. [ Inaudible response ] What?>>The original.>>Joy Harjo: The original. [Laughter]. That’s right. Okay. Howard Cloud from
Albuquerque, New Mexico. [ Applause ] Larry Mitchell, Opelika or
Obalika, Obalaga, Alabama. [ Applause ] Who is part of my one-woman show and they would ask
him what he was doing? And he’d say, he was
playing in a one-woman show. [ Laughter ] And I want to thank
the — oh, my gosh. I know we need to
get on with this. So, there’s so many
people, so many people that came from so far away. And it’s always your love. I mean, that’s what these poems
are made out of, is the love and the challenge — what we
learn from our challenges. It’s made up of [foreign
language] love. So, thank you. Thank you [Native American
language] Carla Hayden for the — Rob and who —
and the staff, Anya and Ann and Jennifer, [inaudible]
been helping. And that so many people, you
know, a bunch of students from Haskell and — yes. [ Laughter, applause ] You know, the support. You know, it’s important we
pass this on because, you know, we all — we’re all
here to serve. You know, I was reluctant
to serve poetry but it has been the most — It’s blessed me beyond words. And with this one. Bless This Land. Thank you, [Native
American language]. [ Music ] And I can’t cry because
all my make up will run. [Laughter] [ Laughter ] [ Music ] Last dance in the
night is almost over. One last round under
the starry sky. We’re all going home somehow,
someway when it’s over. Hey, hey, hey, hey. [ Music ] If you found love in the circle,
then hold onto it not too tight. If you have to let love
go, then let it go. Keep on dancing. I don’t care if you’re married
sixteen times, I’ll get you yet. Going home. Going home. [ Music ] I’m from Oklahoma. Got no one to call
mine, a love supreme. A love supreme. A love supreme. A love supreme. Everybody wants that love. Love supreme. [ Music, Native American ] When the dance is over,
sweetheart, take me home in your one-eyed Ford. But first, we’ve got to go
pick up my auntie and uncle and grandma, and all the kids. [Laughter] Going home. Going home. Going home. [ Music ] Bless this land from
the top of its head to the bottom of its feet. From the arctic old white
head to the brown feet of tropical rain Bless
the eyes of this land, for they witness cruelty
and kindness in this land. From sunrise light
upright to falling down on your knees night. Bless the ears of this land, for
they hear cries of heartbreak and shouts of celebration
in this land. Once we heard no gunshot
on these lands; the trees and stones can be heard singing. Bless the mouth, lips
and speech of this land, for the land is a speaker,
a singer, a keeper of all that happens here, on this land. Luminous forests, oceans,
and rock cliff sold for the trash glut of gold,
uranium, or oil bust rush yet there are new
stories to be made. Little ones coming
up over the horizon. Bless the arms and hands of
this land, for they remake and restore beauty in this land. We were held in the circle
around these lands by song, and reminded by the knowers
that not one is over the other, no human above the bird,
no bird above the insect, no wind above the grass. Bless the heart of this land on its knees planting food
beneath the eternal circle of breathing, swimming
and walking this land. The heart is a poetry maker. There is one heart, said
the poetry maker, one body and all poems make one poem and
we do not use words to make war on this land to bring pain. Bless the femaleness and
maleness of this land, for each holds the
fluent power of becoming. When it was decided to be in
this manner here in this place, this land, all the birds
made a birdly racket from indigo sky holds. Bless the two legs and
two feet of this land, for the sacred always walks
beside the profane in this land. These words walk the backbone of
this land, massaging the tissue around the cord of life,
which is the tree of life, upon which this land stands. Bless the destruction of this
land, for new shoots will rise up from fire, floods,
earthquakes and fierce winds to make new this land. We are land on turtle’s back. When the weight of
greed overturns us, who will recall the
upright song of this land? Bless the creation of new land, for out of chaos we
will be compelled to remember to bless this land. The smallest one remembered,
the most humble one, the one whose voice
you’d have to lean in a thousand years to hear. We will begin there. Bless us, these lands,
said the rememberer. These lands aren’t our lands. These lands aren’t your lands. We are this land. And the blessing began
a graceful moving through the grasses of
time, from the beginning, to the circling around place
of time, always moving, always. [ Music, Native American ] [ Applause ]>>Robert Casper: Alright. Just a few words
before we let you go. I’m Rob Casper. The head of the Poetry
and Literature Center. [ Applause ] And we would love for you
to fill out your surveys, which you received
as you walked in. They’re very useful for us. Also, I want to remind
you at the book signing that Joy will sign a maximum
of two books per person and she will not be able
to write dedications or personalized inscriptions. Otherwise, she’d be here all
night and she’s spent her time with us in the most
powerful way. Finally, I want to let
you know that this event, as the librarian said, is part of the library’s new National
Book Festival Present Series. And the next event takes place
here on Tuesday’s, September 24, with award-winning
writer Edwidge Danticat. You should come here on Tuesday. Check on more of our
events at loc.gov. Thanks so much for being
here and have a good night. [ Applause ]

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