U.S. Poet Laureate and winner of the 2022 Academy of American Poets Leadership Award Joy Harjo examines the power of words and how poetry summons us toward justice and healing
“Her enduring message—that writing can be redemptive—resonates: ‘To write is to make a mark in the world, to assert “I am.”’ The result is a rousing testament to the power of storytelling.”—Publishers Weekly
“Harjo writes as if the creative journey has been the destination all along.”—Kirkus Reviews
In this lyrical meditation about the why of writing poetry, Joy Harjo reflects on significant points of illumination, experience, and questioning from her fifty years as a poet. Composed of intimate vignettes that take us through the author’s life journey as a youth in the late 1960s, a single mother, and a champion of Native nations, this book offers a fresh understanding of how poetry functions as an expression of purpose, spirit, community, and memory—in both the private, individual journey and as a vehicle for prophetic, public witness.
Harjo insists that the most meaningful poetry is birthed through cracks in history from what is broken and unseen. At the crossroads of this brokenness, she calls us to watch and listen for the songs of justice for all those America has denied. This is an homage to the power of words to defy erasure—to inscribe the story, again and again, of who we have been, who we are, and who we can be.
About the Author
Joy Harjo is an internationally renowned performer and writer of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and the twenty-third Poet Laureate of the United States. Her books include Poet Warrior and An American Sunrise. She is the winner of numerous awards, including the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award of the National Book Critics Circle; the 2022 Academy of American Poets Leadership Award; and the 2023 Bollingen Prize for American Poetry, awarded by the Yale University Library.
“Her musings on the ‘story we call “America”’ hit home, and her enduring message—that writing can be redemptive—resonates: ‘To write is to make a mark in the world, to assert “I am.”’ The result is a rousing testament to the power of storytelling.”—Publishers Weekly
“Readers will be fascinated to learn how poetry, performance, song, Native culture, and an unparalleled work ethic came together to inform [Harjo’s] artistic journey. . . . Always illuminating, Harjo writes as if the creative journey has been the destination all along.”—Kirkus Reviews
Selected by Time as one of the best new books of October 2022
“For Harjo, poetry is both a calling and a necessity for survival. . . . Most of these fifty vignettes get right to the heart of the matter—as is Harjo’s way. We need writing to make sense of the world.”—Yvonne C. Garrett, Brooklyn Rail
“Catching the Light is rich with Harjo’s observations about language and place and imagination and the work they do in the world—observations gathered over the course of a lifetime as a poet, memoirist, musician and three-term U.S. poet laureate.”—Jane Marcellus, Chapter 16/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Included on Book Riot’s list of “22 Must-Read Indigenous Authors”
“A must-read for any fan of poetry and literature. This new memoir contains Harjo’s ruminations on a half-century of writing and activism.”—Bustle, “October Best Books”
Praise for Joy Harjo:
“I turn and return to Harjo’s poetry for her breathtaking complex witness and for her world-remaking language.”—Adrienne Rich
“[Harjo’s] poetry is light and elixir, the very best prescription for us in wounded times.”—Sandra Cisneros, The Millions