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An American Sunrise: Poems

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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 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.


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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 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.

30 review for An American Sunrise: Poems

  1. 4 out of 5

    Brina

    Joy Harjo has been named the new US Poet Laureate in 2019, becoming the first Native American to hold the position. American Sunrise is her first published work since becoming the top poet in the United States, and, as with other collections of hers that I have read, she does not disappoint here. This new volume pays homage to her ancestors who traveled the Trail of Tears. Her spiritual grandfather Monawee has been able to travel beyond the boundaries of time and visit members of his tribe and Joy Harjo has been named the new US Poet Laureate in 2019, becoming the first Native American to hold the position. American Sunrise is her first published work since becoming the top poet in the United States, and, as with other collections of hers that I have read, she does not disappoint here. This new volume pays homage to her ancestors who traveled the Trail of Tears. Her spiritual grandfather Monawee has been able to travel beyond the boundaries of time and visit members of his tribe and blessing them with good tidings. Harjo talks of Monawee as well as her aunts, uncles, and grandparents, noting that she and her grandmother share a love of the saxophone, both being above average musicians. After reading Harjo’s memoir Crazy Brave earlier this year, her poetry does not seem as powerful to me because I am now familiar with its backstory. Yet, the prose is still poignant, and Harjo interjects the poems with historical anecdotes of the Cherokee Trail of Tears and how her Ocmulgee people have gotten to where they are today. Now that Harjo is the US Poet Laureate, I look forward to upcoming expressive work of hers. She has been a prominent poet for years now, and is much deserving of this honor. 4 stars

  2. 4 out of 5

    Leslie Reese

    Singing Everything by Joy Harjo Once there were songs for everything, Songs for planting, for growing, for harvesting, For eating, getting drunk, falling asleep, For sunrise, birth, mind-break, and war. For death (those are the heaviest songs and they Have to be pried from the earth with shovels of grief). Now all we hear are falling-in-love songs and Falling apart after falling in love songs. The earth is leaning sideways And a song is emerging from the floods And fires. Urgent tendrils lift toward the Singing Everything by Joy Harjo Once there were songs for everything, Songs for planting, for growing, for harvesting, For eating, getting drunk, falling asleep, For sunrise, birth, mind-break, and war. For death (those are the heaviest songs and they Have to be pried from the earth with shovels of grief). Now all we hear are falling-in-love songs and Falling apart after falling in love songs. The earth is leaning sideways And a song is emerging from the floods And fires. Urgent tendrils lift toward the sun. You must be friends with silence to hear. The songs of the guardians of silence are the most powerful --- They are the most rare.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Deborah

    Named the Poet Laureate of the United States in 2019, Joy Harjo has written a collection of poems honoring her tribal history, her mother, ancestors, singing, remembrance, exile, saxophone, spirituality, and much more. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act. Her tribal ancestors of Muscogees (Mvskokes) were ousted from their homes and lands in Alabama, forced to abandon their lives and possessions, and trudged a Trail of Tears to the Oklahoma Territory. I was surprised to Named the Poet Laureate of the United States in 2019, Joy Harjo has written a collection of poems honoring her tribal history, her mother, ancestors, singing, remembrance, exile, saxophone, spirituality, and much more. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act. Her tribal ancestors of Muscogees (Mvskokes) were ousted from their homes and lands in Alabama, forced to abandon their lives and possessions, and trudged a Trail of Tears to the Oklahoma Territory. I was surprised to learn that it was illegal for native persons of the U.S. to practice religious, spiritual, and cultural rituals until the Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 was enacted. She returned to where her people were ousted. She explores the “destruction and disrespect” of the native sovereign nations. Not only is she the first Native American Poet Laureate, she is an author of books, poetry, and plays and a musician. Some selections: “I was taught to give honor to the house of warriors Which cannot exist without the house of the peacemakers.” (From The Fight) “He knew one day, far day, the grandchildren would return, generations later over slick highways, constructed over old trails Through walls of laws meant to hamper or destroy, over stones bearing libraries of the winds. He sang us back to our home place from which we were stolen in these smoky green hills.” (From How to Write a Poem in a Time of War) “I am a star falling from the night sky I need you to catch me I am a rainbow lifting from a dark cloud I need you to see me” (from Falling from the Night Sky) My favorite poems were Washing My Mother’s Body, Singing Everything; For Those Who Govern; and Advice for Countries, Advanced, Developing and Falling.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Emmkay

    This is the first poetry I’ve read by Joy Harjo, who was named US Poet Laureate in 2019. In 1830 Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, forcing indigenous peoples out of the southeastern United States. Harjo’s family were force-marched from current-day Alabama to Oklahoma. This collection takes that Trail of Tears as a backbone, interweaving experiences from Harjo’s own life and politics, as well as relationships with the natural world, family, and those around her. I was grateful to This is the first poetry I’ve read by Joy Harjo, who was named US Poet Laureate in 2019. In 1830 Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, forcing indigenous peoples out of the southeastern United States. Harjo’s family were force-marched from current-day Alabama to Oklahoma. This collection takes that Trail of Tears as a backbone, interweaving experiences from Harjo’s own life and politics, as well as relationships with the natural world, family, and those around her. I was grateful to learn something of the (shameful) historical context - Harjo intersperses stories from her own family as well as excerpts from oral history of the time. Among the poems, I found Washing My Mother’s Body especially moving.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Peter Tillman

    Joy Harjo is also an accomplished musician -- she blows a mean sax -- and a lot of her poems are 'really' lyrics to her songs. Put her into Spotify (or whatever) and explore a bit. I'll be back. I grew up in Oklahoma and am part Cherokee myself. Pres. Jackson's Indian Removal Act of 1830 is one of the most shameful parts of our Nation's history These were people who were trying to adapt to the American Way. It didn't work. Greedy settlers stole their land anyway, and turned them off their Joy Harjo is also an accomplished musician -- she blows a mean sax -- and a lot of her poems are 'really' lyrics to her songs. Put her into Spotify (or whatever) and explore a bit. I'll be back. I grew up in Oklahoma and am part Cherokee myself. Pres. Jackson's Indian Removal Act of 1830 is one of the most shameful parts of our Nation's history These were people who were trying to adapt to the American Way. It didn't work. Greedy settlers stole their land anyway, and turned them off their property at gunpoint. As Harjo writes, they "were forced to leave behind houses, printing presses, stores, cattle, schools, pianos, ceremonial grounds, tribal towns, churchs." The thieving American settlers stole everything they owned but the clothes on their backs. Thousands of tribal people died enroute to their new homes, mostly undeveloped land in Indian Territory (later, eastern Oklahoma). A volunteer soldier from Georgia who participated in the removal said: "I fought through the civil war and have seen men shot to pieces and slaughtered by thousands, but the Cherokee removal was the cruelest work I ever knew." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trail_o... Harjo riffs off her friend T.C. Cannon's songs, which I should look for -- he was a musician and famous artist, tragically dead at 31 in a car wreck. See her/his Dylan emulation, “Mama and Papa Have the Shiprock Blues” -- I'm pretty sure they played together, in school & later. See Peter Schjeldahl's cool NYer article (with art) at https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/20... I hope got to see this show of her old friend's work! I'm not much of a poetry reader, ordinarily, but there's a lot of Mvsokoke history here, their losses, their troubles. It runs together a bit, and I do get to thinking: bad stuff, but (mostly) a long time ago. Get over it, people! A little silly, from my privileged standpoint. But my Dad grew up poor and worked his way out of it, as did millions of others . . . I didn't quite finish before the book came due, and I might get back to it. Still, if you are new to Harjo, start with her great memoir, CRAZY BRAVE. You'll be glad you did.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ron

    Our current Poet Laureate looks back in memory, horror, honor, curiosity at the trials of her people, the Mvskoke, forcibly removed in the early 1800s from their homes east of the Mississippi, to Indian Territory, now part of Oklahoma. She looks at our current moment with concern, anger, but remarkably, hope, and gives the reader cause to keep looking forward for the same. The mind reels at the thought that we can have such a Poet Laureate on hand at a time when cruelty and ignorance sullies our Our current Poet Laureate looks back in memory, horror, honor, curiosity at the trials of her people, the Mvskoke, forcibly removed in the early 1800s from their homes east of the Mississippi, to Indian Territory, now part of Oklahoma. She looks at our current moment with concern, anger, but remarkably, hope, and gives the reader cause to keep looking forward for the same. The mind reels at the thought that we can have such a Poet Laureate on hand at a time when cruelty and ignorance sullies our White House. May her words, in time, triumph over those dark voices. Here is a favorite, of many: "A Refuge in the Smallest of Places" (for Emily Dickinson, one of the singers. And for all who those fleeing on those ancient migration trails north, for home.) Someone sang for me and no one else could hear it When I had given up and made knife marks on my arm Or drank and gave myself away or was given Someone sang for me and no one else could hear it When demons came with rope and cages To take my children from me and imprison us Someone sang for me and no one else could hear it Now I am here in the timeless room of lost poetry Gathering up the destroyed and forgotten Because of the songs someone sang that no one else could hear But me."

  7. 4 out of 5

    Deedi (DeediReads) Brown

    All my book reviews can be seen at https://deedispeaking.com/reads/. My mother had the iron pot given to her by her Cherokee mother, whose mother gave it to her, given to her by the U.S. government on the Trail of Tears. She grew flowers in it. Did you really expect me to give the first Native American to be named Poet Laureate of the United States anything less than five stars? Thank you so much to W. W. Norton for sending me a free finished copy — I enjoyed it so immensely. Joy Harjo is, of All my book reviews can be seen at https://deedispeaking.com/reads/. My mother had the iron pot given to her by her Cherokee mother, whose mother gave it to her, given to her by the U.S. government on the Trail of Tears. She grew flowers in it. Did you really expect me to give the first Native American to be named Poet Laureate of the United States anything less than five stars? Thank you so much to W. W. Norton for sending me a free finished copy — I enjoyed it so immensely. Joy Harjo is, of course, masterful. The way she used not only the words themselves but also the shapes of words, the break of words, but sounds of words — it’s like watching someone paint with language. I was especially impressed with her ability to cut a line at the exact spot where the thought up till then makes sense, but it’s not until you keep reading that the thought completes and you really understand what she meant, and it literally (literally) steals your breath away. Like this: The children were stolen from these beloved lands by the government. Their hair was cut, their toys and handmade clothes ripped From them. They were bathed in pesticides And now clean, given prayers in a foreign language to recite As they were lined up to sleep alone in their army-issued cages. Some of the poems in this collection were much more abstract than others, and it took me a lot longer than I had expected to get through its ~100 pages. Sometimes I read poems three, four times. Sometimes I read a section over and over, peeling it away little by little. If you are new (or new-ish) to poetry, expect to spend time with it, like I had to. Still, it will be well worth your effort. How truly fortunate we are to live in an age where collections like this reach the masses, tell stories, open our eyes. No matter — you are born of those Who kept ceremonial embers burning in their hands All through the miles of relentless massacre All the way to sunrise You will make it through —

  8. 4 out of 5

    Craig Werner

    This isn't Harjo at her very best--for that go to Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings and In Mad Love and War--but Harjo at her second best is still one of the most important voices sounding into the wasteland we're living in. There are a few poems here that made me think that being named Poet Laureate is a slightly mixed blessing, obligating the poet to turn a bit more toward the public world than she might otherwise. Then again, Harjo has always done a beautiful job taking deep lyrical moments This isn't Harjo at her very best--for that go to Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings and In Mad Love and War--but Harjo at her second best is still one of the most important voices sounding into the wasteland we're living in. There are a few poems here that made me think that being named Poet Laureate is a slightly mixed blessing, obligating the poet to turn a bit more toward the public world than she might otherwise. Then again, Harjo has always done a beautiful job taking deep lyrical moments outwards in tones that reach people who don't spend much time with poetry. American Sunrise weaves together vignettes from Muskogee history--the Trail of Tears--with celebrations and mourning songs grounded in the contemporary world, resonating with the music that's an equal part of her larger practice. In "By the Way," an elegy addressed to Adrienne Rich, she speaks to the blues complications at the core of her vision: "I want to go back and rewrite all the letters I lied frequently. No, I was not okay. And neither was James Baldwin though his essays Were perfect spinning platters of comprehension of the fight To assert humanness in a black and white world. That's how the blues emerged, by the way-- Our spirits needed a way to dance through the heavy mess. The music, a sack that carries the bones of those left alongside The trail of tears when we were forced To leave everything we knew by the way--" Among my favorite poems after one reading (there'll be more): "Washing My Mother's Body," "How to Write a Poem in Time of War," "First Morning," "The Earth's Grandsons," "Running," Rabbit Invents the Saxophone," "Redbird Love," and the majestic "Becoming Seventy."

  9. 5 out of 5

    James F

    The newest collection of poems by the recently appointed Poet Laureate of the United States, Joy Harjo. The book reminded me very much of another poetry book by another Native American writer, N. Scott Momaday's Return to Rainy Mountain. Both books use a literal "return" (in the case of Harjo, a visit to the original homeland of the Creek nation in the Southeast) as a starting point for returning in time to both personal and family history and the history of their people. Both books also mix The newest collection of poems by the recently appointed Poet Laureate of the United States, Joy Harjo. The book reminded me very much of another poetry book by another Native American writer, N. Scott Momaday's Return to Rainy Mountain. Both books use a literal "return" (in the case of Harjo, a visit to the original homeland of the Creek nation in the Southeast) as a starting point for returning in time to both personal and family history and the history of their people. Both books also mix poetry with poetic prose passages and short historical comments. A highlight was Harjo's elegy on her mother, a restaurant worker.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Melody Riggs

    I had to take my time with this one as some of the poems led me to looking up history about indigenous persons and events in America. The writing is beautiful, and it’s no wonder that Harjo is our current poet laureate. She blends history, activism, and storytelling into poems that I would go back and read several times just to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Madelynp

    Harjo's poems are hopeful and tragic, humorous and mournful. I highly recommend this book of her poetry to everyone as we grapple with leadership in the United States that is trying to whitewash not just history, but our country.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Bob Minnick

    Inspiring, heart wrenching, empowering poems. Thank you Joy Harjo!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Alyssa

    I enjoyed this one. I like Joy Harjo’s voice and the poem “Road” especially. The back half of this collection dragged for me but I’ll definitely be picking up her other collections.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Robyn

    Incredible mix of prose and poetry, revealing Harjo's family history along side contemporary accounts. My favourite poems were those that she wrote to go alongside paintings by her late friend, T.C. Cannon - incredibly immersive experience to look at the paintings and then read the poem, and then look back .... etc.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Bri

    An intense collection, with reverance and relevance to the past, present, and future. Read it slow. Read it with care. Then read it again. It's worth it. Some of my favorite selections: "Mama And Papa Have The Going Home Shiprock Blues" "Singing Everything" "For Earth's Grandsons" "A Refuge In The Smallest Of Places" "Honoring" "Advice For Countries, Advanced, Developing And Falling" "An American Sunrise"

  16. 4 out of 5

    David Curry

    I wish Joy Harjo’s latest collection of poetry, An American Sunrise, contained more stanzas as surely achieved as this, in “I Wonder What You Are Thinking,” a poem about birds: Her body is stirring with eggs. She tucks found materials Into their nest with her beak. The nerves in her wingtips sense rains coming to soften the ground to send food to the surface of the earth. That’s impeccably achieved. (Harjo returns to birds in “Redbird Love, ” one of the stronger poems in the collection.) But far too I wish Joy Harjo’s latest collection of poetry, An American Sunrise, contained more stanzas as surely achieved as this, in “I Wonder What You Are Thinking,” a poem about birds:
 Her body is stirring with eggs. She tucks found materials Into their nest with her beak. The nerves in her wingtips sense rains coming to soften the ground to send food to the surface of the earth. That’s impeccably achieved. (Harjo returns to birds in “Redbird Love, ” one of the stronger poems in the collection.) But far too often Harjo’s poems are flat, raw statements, reading like translations in which the poetry has been lost or song lyrics anemic without their music. From “Exile of Memory”: Grief is killing us. Anger tormenting us. Sadness eating us with disease. Our young women are stolen, raped and murdered. Our young men are killed by the police, or killing themselves and each other. That doesn’t exactly stir me, even as I sympathize with the poet’s concerns about the displacement of Native Americans, the urgency of the Native Rights Movement, and the importance of historic, racial and familial memory. In the middle of “The Storm Wheel,” she quotes from N. Scott Momaday’s The Way To Rainy Mountain, and I was struck by the contrast between her flatness and Momaday’s sharp and evocative language, Here’s Momaday: “Once I looked at the moon and caught sight of a strange thing. A cricket had perched upon the handrail, only a few inches away from me. My line of vision was such that the creature filled the moon like a fossil. It had gone the re, I thought, to live and die , for there, of all places, was its small definition made whole and eternal. A warm wind rose up and purled like the longing within me.” Harjo and Momaday are both Native Americans. Harjo is an enrolled member of the Muscogee Creek Nation and was recently named Poet Laureate of the United States.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sasha

    There are lessons in listening. When Mvskoke poet Joy Harjo was named Poet Laureate here in the U.S. there was this tremendous moment of conflict. On one hand, the first Indigenous poet laureate is boon to Indigenous literature, so often invisible. On the other, what did it mean that recognition through the U.S. meant finally more people would be exposed to the long(longest) legacy of Indigenous poetry? That question certainly deserves some attention, but Harjo's An American Sunrise is carefully There are lessons in listening. When Mvskoke poet Joy Harjo was named Poet Laureate here in the U.S. there was this tremendous moment of conflict. On one hand, the first Indigenous poet laureate is boon to Indigenous literature, so often invisible. On the other, what did it mean that recognition through the U.S. meant finally more people would be exposed to the long(longest) legacy of Indigenous poetry? That question certainly deserves some attention, but Harjo's An American Sunrise is carefully curated to reframe the question into a declarative sentence: our poems are all encompassing, our poems are history and the future. Our poems are sorrow and love, song and joy. And our poems are ancestral, guiding us through dark times. . "What we speak always returns With a spike of barbs Or the sweet taste of berries in summer." (Song 6. Let 'Em Eat Grass in "Mama and Papa Have the Going Home Shiprock Blues") An American Sunrise may not be my favorite collection, but it is without a doubt a timely one. In an era of fear, of violence, Harjo balances trauma with hope and her poems resonate with the kind of humming buzz of music lingering just under the skin. The song: we can overcome the pain, the loss by listening and following to the pathways to survival and resistance traveled by ancestors.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Chris Thompson

    Joy Harjo’s poems are largely about reclaiming and retaining memories that were stolen on the Trail of Tears, a result of Andrew Jackson’s notorious Indian Removal Act. There’s a sense of injustice in her poetry, but not anger. In remembering, there is a sense of happiness, tranquility. Much of the symbolism of the poems, then, revolves around paths, roads, walking. There are also themes of spirituality and nature - particularly how nature is ignored at the expense of commercial things. For Joy Harjo’s poems are largely about reclaiming and retaining memories that were stolen on the Trail of Tears, a result of Andrew Jackson’s notorious Indian Removal Act. There’s a sense of injustice in her poetry, but not anger. In remembering, there is a sense of happiness, tranquility. Much of the symbolism of the poems, then, revolves around paths, roads, walking. There are also themes of spirituality and nature - particularly how nature is ignored at the expense of commercial things. For instance, nobody listens to the music of nature because we are too preoccupied with headphones in our ears listening to cold commercial music. I can appreciate that. The America we have built prized industry and materialism over Mother Nature, to our detriment. Harjo’s poems are sometimes abstract, sometimes lucid. She periodically dips into prose in her more lucid moments. Here we learn the mind blowing fast that natives were not allowed to practice their culture in song, poetry, or dance until 1978. What amazes me is the tenacity that Harjo displays - the tenacity to hold onto the native culture and memories. We see this when Harjo shares that she still had a belonging passed down from her great grandfather who walked the Trail of Tears. There is much to learn and ponder in this collection of poetry and thoughts.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    from Directions to You Take a deep breath, Pray. You will not always be lost. You are right here, In your time, In your place. ----- Song 6. Let 'Em Eat Grass What we speak always returns With a spike of barbs Or the sweet taste of berries in summer. ----- From Honoring Let's honor the maker. Let's honor what's made. ----- From Redbird Love Then we watch him fill his beak Walk tenderly to her and kiss her with seed. The sacred world lifts up its head To notice -- We are double, triple blessed. ----- From By the Way They from Directions to You Take a deep breath, Pray. You will not always be lost. You are right here, In your time, In your place. ----- Song 6. Let 'Em Eat Grass What we speak always returns With a spike of barbs Or the sweet taste of berries in summer. ----- From Honoring Let's honor the maker. Let's honor what's made. ----- From Redbird Love Then we watch him fill his beak Walk tenderly to her and kiss her with seed. The sacred world lifts up its head To notice -- We are double, triple blessed. ----- From By the Way They couldn't remember because to remember would have killed us when nothing else did.

  20. 5 out of 5

    lisa

    I will love everything Joy Harjo writes, not just because she is Indigenous (like me) or because she lived in Albuquerque (like me) or because my mother took a poetry class from Joy when she was pregnant with me (so I heard her lessons in utero), but because she brings a feeling of something beyond the earth when she writes, and because you can hear the sounds of her saxophone over her poetry. She is an excellent choice to be the first Indigenous National Poet Laureate, and this book, like all I will love everything Joy Harjo writes, not just because she is Indigenous (like me) or because she lived in Albuquerque (like me) or because my mother took a poetry class from Joy when she was pregnant with me (so I heard her lessons in utero), but because she brings a feeling of something beyond the earth when she writes, and because you can hear the sounds of her saxophone over her poetry. She is an excellent choice to be the first Indigenous National Poet Laureate, and this book, like all her books should be read by all.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Harjo has been appointed 2019 U.S. Poet Laureate, and with great reason. Her latest collection doesn't play down the harsh realities of both the past and present injustices Native nations continue to endure after centuries of colonization. Enmeshed with family history, particularly the triumphs of her grandfather Monahwee, Harjo honors her Mvskoke ancestors and encourages Indigenous peoples to continue reclaiming what is rightfully theirs. If you are going to read just one poetry book, this Harjo has been appointed 2019 U.S. Poet Laureate, and with great reason. Her latest collection doesn't play down the harsh realities of both the past and present injustices Native nations continue to endure after centuries of colonization. Enmeshed with family history, particularly the triumphs of her grandfather Monahwee, Harjo honors her Mvskoke ancestors and encourages Indigenous peoples to continue reclaiming what is rightfully theirs. If you are going to read just one poetry book, this should be it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Barb

    This collection of poems by the current Poet Laureate of the US served as a memoir and a tribute to her family who were forced to relocate and travel over the Trail of Tears. (1830-1839) Many of the poems were narrative and others lyrical. As with all collections, I found some that moved me deeply and others that I could let go. I would especially recommend this book for those who appreciate tributes to past generations.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    I kept this slim book of poetryon my den table, to read when I had a little time but not before bed or when I'd otherwise be distracted. And after finishing it, I think I'll keep it there, to reach for again. There is a lot to unpack in this book. I'm glad I read Ms. Harjo's memoir concurrently and also glad I'm reading The End of the Myth by Greg Grandin at the same time, as both help put the racist American policies Ms. Harjo and her ancestors have suffered in context. I kept this slim book of poetry on my den table, to read when I had a little time but not before bed or when I'd otherwise be distracted. And after finishing it, I think I'll keep it there, to reach for again. There is a lot to unpack in this book. I'm glad I read Ms. Harjo's memoir concurrently and also glad I'm reading The End of the Myth by Greg Grandin at the same time, as both help put the racist American policies Ms. Harjo and her ancestors have suffered in context.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Jackson

    I've read a decent amount of Joy Harjo's poetry before and enjoyed quite a bit of it, but An American Sunrise was not one of her best works. I'm all about political poetry and a theme of history and injustice that this book of poetry purports to be about, but I felt it was rather full and lackluster to communicate the story that Harjo perhaps intended to communicate. Some poems and some lines in this collection were touching and powerful, but as a whole, this book isn't for me.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tom Romig

    Resilience confronts loss, pride overcomes prejudice. What a country is America: contaminated by slavery, shamed by genocide. And here we are in 2019 with the favorite president of the current occupant of the White House being white supremacist Andrew Jackson, signer of the Indian Removal Act in 1830.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    A unique voice of Native American perspective, I really enjoyed these poems that discussed an historic as well as current viewpoint. Her tribe and family endured the Trail of Tears from Alabama to Oklahoma in the 1830's and the impact of displacement is evident. The poems are personal, political, powerful. I especially liked: Honoring and My Man's Feet.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Emily Whitmore

    I rarely feel a collection of poetry this deeply - mostly that has to do my ability to focus in on what I am reading. But this collection was powerful and lovely. I thoroughly enjoyed the essays scattered throughout, and her pleas of change and care of Earth were heartfelt. Even if you don't like poetry, this is the collection for you.

  28. 4 out of 5

    James Spencer

    An extraordinary set of poems by our new poet laureate in which she reflects on an excursion she made back to Georgia to the beginning of her ancestors Trail of Tears. Very sad but there are at times joy as well in what family means and brings to her family.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Liz Cloos

    A pensive collection of poems, which causes the reader to reflect of the colonial past of the United States and the ongoing injustices. A remarkable peak into the lives of the Mvskoke people, past and present.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Maria Khan

    Words to host the complex inner feelings we all don’t know how to pronounce as we witness the treatment of immigrants to this country today. Learning about the Native American experience on this issue is so profound... My favorite poem: Granddaughters

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