Building the House of Knowledge (Joy Harjo)
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“Humanity is messy, each of us starts with ourselves, it's horribly messy and then multiply that times millions. And that's an incredible, lovely mess.” So says Joy Harjo, the 23rd United States Poet Laureate, and the first Native American to hold that post. She is the author of nine books of poetry, several plays, and childrens books, and two memoirs—and is an internationally renowned performer and writer of the Muscogee nation, with an innumerable number of prizes and fellowships at her back. Today, we sit down to discuss her second memoir, POET WARRIOR, which just came out. It is beautiful—not only the story of her life, but a vehicle for deep wisdom about language, metaphor, and ritual. We—as individuals, as communities, as nations, and as humankind—exist in a collective story field, Harjo tells us. Everyone’s story must have a place, a thread within the larger tapestry—and our story field must constantly shift to include even the most difficult stories, the ones we want to forget and repress. But, as she remarks, the hard stories provide the building blocks for our house of knowledge—we cannot evolve without them. To move forward, we must find ourselves in the messy story of humanity, assume our place as part of the earth in this time and in these challenges. For Harjo, it is when we turn to song, poetry, and the arts that we are able to re-root ourselves in the voice of inner truth, a knowing that has access to stories past, present, and future. And it is this wisdom of eternal knowledge that will help guide us forward—if we only stop to listen.  Joy is also the winner of the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the PEN USA Literary Award for Nonfiction, the Jackson Prize from the Poetry Society of America, the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, and the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. Harjo is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, the Rasmuson United States Artist Fellowship. She is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, Board of Directors Chair of the Native Arts & Cultures Foundation, and holds a Tulsa Artist Fellowship. In 2014 she was inducted into the Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame.  EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS Finding ourselves in the messy story of humanity…(6:33) Returning to rituals of becoming…(36:14)  The story of mothers…(42:59) MORE FROM JOY HARJO Joy Harjo's Website Poet Warrior: A Memoir More Books by Joy Harjo Upcoming Live Events Follow Joy on Twitter and on Instagram Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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