Joy Harjo came to Johnson City recently as a literary festival keynoter and speaker in ETSU poetry classes. Those of us who heard and interacted with her were given a gift. A few months after her visit here, she was named U.S. Poet Laureate in 2019.
The title for this message is from an interview with her in American Poets, Spring/Summer, 2019. I cite below a portion of that interview—a penetrating insight into the nature of poetry:
Poetry is the art that is closest to music, standing between music and narrative orality (which can be speechmaking, sermon or theater). Poetry is the voice of what can’t be spoken, the mode of truth-telling when meaning needs to rise above or skim below everyday language in shapes not discernible by the ordinary mind…. Poetry is prophetic by nature and not bound by time. [It] carries grief, heartache, ecstasy, celebration, despair, or searing truth more directly than any other literary art form…. Poetry is a tool for disruption and creation and is necessary for generations of humans to know who they are and who they are becoming in the wave map of history. Without poetry, we lose our way.