Portrait of Joy Harjo

Today’s poem comes from Joy Harjo. She was born in Oklahoma and received her MFA from  the Iowa Writers Workshop in 1978. She is part of the Mvskoke/Creek Nation, an identity that is also reflected in her poetry, including her collections The Woman Who Fell from the Sky (1996), How We Became Human (2004), Crazy Brave: A Memoir (2013), and her most recent titled Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings (2017).

The Harjo poem we’d like to share with you today is titled “How to Write a Poem in a Time of War,” from the September 2017 issue of Poetry. It begins:

You can’t begin just anywhere. It’s a wreck.
                                                                                       Shrapnel and the eye
Of a house, a row of houses. There’s a rat scrambling
From light with fleshy trash in its mouth. A baby strapped to its mother’s back
Cut loose.                                                                     Soldiers crawl the city,
The river, the town, the village,
                                      The bedroom, our kitchen. They eat everything.
Or burn it.
They kill what they cannot take. They rape. What they cannot kill they take.
Rumors fall like rain.
                                     Like bombs.

Read the rest of the poem here.


Some other great poems by Joy Harjo include “A Map to the Next World” and “Eagle Poem.” You can read even more here.