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 an internationally known poet, performer, writer, and saxophone player of the Mvskoke/Creek Nation. Her seven books of poetry 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, all published by W.W. Norton. Her poetry has garnered many awards including the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas, 1998 Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Award, and the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America.
Harjo's memoir, Crazy Brave (W.W. Norton, 2012), tells of her journey to becoming a poet and was called "The best kind of memoir, an unself-conscious mix of autobiography, spiritual rumination, cultural evaluation, history and political analysis told in simple but authoritative and deeply poetic proze" by Ms Magazine . Soul Talk, Song Language (2011) is a collection of Harjo's essays and interviews was published by Wesleyan Press. She co-edited an anthology of contemporary Native women's writing: Reinventing the Enemy's Language: Native Women's Writing of North America, one of the London Observer's Best Books of 1997. She wrote the award-winning children's book, The Good Luck Cat (Harcourt), and in 2009 she published a Young Adult, coming-of-age-book, For A Girl Becoming, which won a Moonbeam Award and a Silver Medal from the Independent Publishers Awards.