Monday, November 22, 2021

An American Sunrise: Poems by Joy Harjo


With the month of November being Native American Heritage Month, I decided it would be a very worthwhile endeavor to read at least one book written by a Native American. 

I've been interested in reading a book of poetry written by Joy Harjo for sometime now. Reading a collection of Ms. Harjo's poetry seemed especially pertinent considering that she is the current Poet Laureate of the United States and is the first Native American to hold this esteemed position. 

As a quick side note, I had the honor of hearing Joy Harjo speak virtually last November through the University of Iowa's 'Chat From the Old Cap' event where I learned that Joy Harjo earned her MFA from the Iowa Writer's Workshop in 1978. This virtual event was awesome and further sealed the deal in my resolve to read something written by Joy Harjo.

So, I decided to listen to the unabridged audio version of An American Sunrise: Poems by Joy Harjo and narrated by the author. I prefer hearing poetry read aloud (especially by the author) verses reading it myself as I feel hearing poetry read aloud is more powerful.

I liked many of the poems written and read by Joy Harjo, but three of the poems that stood out were 'Granddaughters', 'For Those Who Would Govern', 'Advice For Countries, Advanced, Developing and Falling'.

Below is a YouTube of Joy Harjo reading 'For Those Who Would Govern':

Listening time for An American Sunrise: Poems by Joy Harjo is 1 hour, 41 minutes.

Below is the publisher's summary for An American Sunrise: Poems by Joy Harjo from Audible:

A stunning new volume from the first Native American Poet Laureate of the United States, informed by her tribal history and connection to the land.

In the early 1800s, the Mvskoke people were forcibly removed from their original lands east of the Mississippi to Indian Territory, which is now part of Oklahoma. Two hundred years later, Joy Harjo returns to her family’s lands and opens a dialogue with history. In An American Sunrise, Harjo finds blessings in the abundance of her homeland and confronts the site where her people, and other indigenous families, essentially disappeared. From her memory of her mother’s death, to her beginnings in the native rights movement, to the fresh road with her beloved, Harjo’s personal life intertwines with tribal histories to create a space for renewed beginnings. Her poems sing of beauty and survival, illuminating a spirituality that connects her to her ancestors and thrums with the quiet anger of living in the ruins of injustice. A descendent of storytellers and “one of our finest - and most complicated - poets” (Los Angeles Review of Books), Joy Harjo continues her legacy with this latest powerful collection.

I am giving An American Sunrise: Poems by Joy Harjo a rating of 4 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!!


  1. Thank you for a lovely review. Harjo is really quite an amazing poet.

    1. I enjoyed listening to her read her poetry very much.