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  • Mandy McHugh

An American Sunrise, Joy Harjo: A Review

In Mad Love and War has been one of my favorite poetry collections since I read it in grad school, and I will always hold a special place in my heart for Joy Harjo because of that.


I was so excited to see this title and quickly dove in.



Poetry collections can be hard to review because there are a lot of working parts, but I absolutely loved this. From the stunning imagery to the prodigious themes, Harjo's writing is as effortless as it is breathtaking and important.


Personal favorites included:


Singing Everything--a beautiful exploration of the loss of tradition and the path of the future


Rabbit Invents the Saxophone--this one floored me. Lyrical and raw in its examination of entertainment to distract from social issues, it reminded me of This Is America. I will never look at a saxophone the same way.


Advice for Countries, Advanced, Developing and Falling--felt like a call and response that broke my heart. Identity one feels versus the identity one is given, the expectations of government versus spirit especially within the confines of current sociopolitical affairs.


CEHOTOSAKVTES--Hit me right in the heart. Short but powerful in its hope.


Directions to You--beautiful imagery and song for acceptance. This one had me in tears.


Washing My Mother's Body--I haven't been able to stop thinking about this. From the description of mourning to the respect for memories and feeling connected--past, present, future, entwined--this is a moving, heartbreaking poem about grief and love.


I 10/10 recommend this collection to everyone. An important examination of Native American persecution, history, loss, grief, mourning, identity and anger, family, traditions, spirituality, and everything in between.

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