... the stranger whose tribe weHarjo also calls her "the proverbial dream girl, the face of the moon." (There's the moon again, in another bar. What's a nice moon like you doing in a place like this? What's the deer-dancer woman doing in a place like this? Or, as Harjo asks, "That's what I'd like to know, what are we all doing in a place like this?" What's going on here?)
recognized, her family related to deer, if that's who she was, a people
accustomed to hearing songs in pine trees, and making them hearts.
Harjo writes a lot about alcoholism and other social problems. But she also writes a lot about how we come to accept who we are, and how we reconcile ourselves with the world. "Deer Dancer" concludes:
The music ended. And so does the story. I wasn't there. But I imagined herCan you see any images in the poem, any action, any narrative that shows Native American people in very seedy circumstances? Like in a cheap bar? Dancing naked on the furniture? But can you see anything in Native American culture still shining through in spite of the circumstances? What would it mean to be like a deer? In Native culture? To us, in our culture? To you? What are deer like? Are they graceful? Are they natural. Do they belong in bars? Think about some of these things.
like this, not a stained red dress with tape on her heels but the deer who
entered our dream in white dawn, breathed mist into pine trees, her fawn a
blessing of meat, the ancestors who never left.
What is Harjo saying about Native American culture and values and Native hope for the future? About her own personal values and hope for the future? What can she say to all of us about our values and our ability to overcome mean circumstances.
Joy Harjo is very big on reconciliation, on working through personal difficulties. And she's very big on the Muscogee culture. In a poem called "Autobiography," she tells the history of her people -- how they were forced west in the 1830s and their land was stolen -- and how she came to accept her heritage one night nursing a drunk she found on the street, a drunk from the Jemez pueblo who reminded her of her father. She ends the poem:
I have since outlived that man from Jemez, my father and that ragged self I chased through precarious years. But I carry them with me the same as this body carries the heart as a drum. Yesterday there was rain traveling east to home. A hummingbird spoke. She was a shining piece of invisible memory, inside the raw cortex of songs. I knew then this was the Muscogee season of forgiveness, time of new corn, the spiraling dance.See how "Autobiography" works through difficult issues and comes out talking about spirit, forgiveness, new life? Does "Deer Dancer" do something similar? How do you respond to the poems?
Blog your response to these two poems by Joy Harjo, "Deer Dancer" and "Autobiography." What do they tell you about Muscogee culture? What do they tell you about Harjo? What do they tell you about yourself? Remember the three questions I asked the other day to get you thinking about your response to a poem? Well, here they are again:
1. What about this work stands out in my mind?Post your response -- at least 4-5 sentences long -- as comments to this post. Please note: If you were taught in English class never to say "I" in a paper for school, you're off the hook in this class! There's no way you can write about these questions without saying "I." That's what they're all about.
2. What in my background, values, needs and interests makes me react that way?
3. What specific things in the work trigger that reaction?