When we write poetry we follow the trail of language. We listen as language emerges from the dreams and sounds of our ancestors, the land, the racket and music going on all around us and inside us. All of it starts with rhythm. Rhythm is the core, the get-down. We know rhythm first as the heart—it's the pulse of "I want to live-I want to live-I want to more than live"—And then there are trajectories of meaning and sound making infinite possibilities. Words, phrases, lines, and images are means to make meaning in the world.
Our hearts are the first teachers of poetry. The iambic rhythm of the beat teaches us that silence is as necessary to poetry as sound. Emptiness is followed by fulfillment, which is followed by emptiness then fulfillment to the end of our days. There can be no poetry without the heart. Even the absence of heart will draw its shadow.
Poetry can start and end revolutions of countries, of the heart and mind. It remains the carrier of cultures beyond the vagaries of history. Such poetry demands a fine-tuned craft. Such craft begins with learning how to listen.
"You need to learn how to listen," is one of the first things the spirit of poetry said to me when it came for me in the mid-seventies. I went. I didn't really have a choice. I am still learning how to listen. It's an ongoing art, like learning to write poetry, like living.
This is a master poetry workshop about listening and learning to listen beyond what is obvious. Listening is the primary tool for creation and revision. We will sharpen this art. Because this is a master class participants will have a body of work from which to begin. In this workshop you will revise, reconsider, and write. (This workshop may require some late night excursions into the desert.)
Joy Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and is a member of the Mvskoke Nation. Her seven books of poetry, which include such well-known titles as How We Became Human- New and Selected Poems, The Woman Who Fell From the Sky, and She Had Some Horses. Her awards include the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas, and the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. She has released four award-winning CD's of original music and won a Native American Music Award (NAMMY) for Best Female Artist of the Year. She performs nationally and internationally solo and with her band. She has appeared on HBO's Def Poetry Jam, in venues in every major U.S. city and internationally. Her one-woman show, Wings of Night Sky, Wings of Morning Light, which features guitarist Larry Mitchell premiered in Los Angeles in 2009, with recent performances at Joe’s Pub in NYC and LaJolla Playhouse as part of the Native Voices at the Autry. She was recently awarded 2011 Artist of the Year from the Mvskoke Women’s Leadership Initiative, and a Rasmuson US Artists Fellowship. She is a founding board member and treasurer of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation. Harjo writes a column Comings and Goings for her tribal newspaper, the Muscogee Nation News. Her newest publication is Soul Talk, Song Language, Conversations with Joy Harjo from Wesleyan University Press. Due this spring is Crazy Brave, a memoir from W.W. Norton and a new album of music.