In Mad Love and War

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Reads like a tumultuous journal of Joy Harjo’s dreams, stories and reports from Indian country.

 



In Mad Love and War reads like a tumultuous journal of Joy Harjo’s dreams, stories and reports from Indian country. This collection of poetry is abstract and emotionally insightful, in the style for which Harjo is cherished and renowned. In Mad Love and War is the winner of the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America.

The book is divided into two sections: “Mad Love” and “The Wars;” both are acutely personal. Harjo’s work is often mystical; densely packed with metaphors of the natural world.

Her beautifully descriptive poem entitled Song for the Deer and Myself to Return On alludes to Harjo’s Native heritage, a consistent theme throughout her work. She writes: “I was overwhelmed. / I sang the song Louis taught me:  a song to call the deer in Creek, when hunting, / and I am certainly hunting something as magic as deer / in this city far from the hammock of my mother’s belly. / It works, of course, and deer came into this room / and wondered at finding themselves / in a house near downtown Denver.”

In Death is a Woman, Harjo describes a photograph of her mother and father. She writes about her father who romanced white women: “your hair slick and black as a beaver’s, feeling better / than you could ever believe. / And my mother on the same side as your heart / looking past the camera, into her imagined future without you, / fiercely into the brutal eyes of the woman who seduced you / and won.”

But in addition to her personal reflections, Harjo’s poetry is also commentary about society and struggle. In Original Memory, Harjo writes: “But Western time is a dominant white man, perhaps Doubt himself, who demands of the world utmost respect and servitude, worships invention and calls it love.” She then asks: “And who are we to make sense of this slit of impossible time?”

Harjo is not afraid to ask questions; indeed, she seems to want the reader to draw his or her own conclusions. In fact, Harjo wrote of her work, “I don’t really know what my poems or the stuff of my poetry means exactly. That’s not the point. It never was the point. I am aware of stepping into a force field or dream field of language, of sound. Each journey is different, just as the ocean or the sky is never the same from one day to another.”

Joy Harjo is an associate professor of English at the University of Arizona, an editor, screenwriter, and tenor sax player. A member of the Creek (Muscogee) tribe, she was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and grew up in that state and in New Mexico. She attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, where she later was an instructor, and graduated from the University of New Mexico (B.A. 1976) and the University of Iowa (M.F.A. 1978). She was assistant professor at the University of Colorado from 1985 to 1988.

 

 

 

Author: Joy Harjo

Illustrations: Black and white illustrations by Jaune Quick-to-See Smith

Binding Availability: Paperback

Published: 1990

Tribes/Ethnic Groups: Muscogee Creek