Joy Harjo's Web Log
Joy Harjo posts reports here on her trips and other happenings.
Monday, January 31, 2005
The Difficult World
It’s morning in Honolulu in this difficult world. My cardinal neighbor acknowledged it with a song. When I stepped out into the quiet I gave thanks for this embrace of peace. The Pacific is rolling in, from here looks like sloppy two feet waves. Still, I’d like to go out and paddle into what my spirit knows there. I breathe it in. Breathe out the worries, overwhelming sadness. Elections are being held in Iraq that aren’t true elections. Let people decide for themselves. They aren’t; the conquerors are deciding all this because they believe that the oil and resources are theirs by divine right. There’s no ruse anymore. The lies are sheer, transparent. It’s been happening here, on this island, in this country for years. We forget.
Now, who do I talk on behalf of my poet friend who starts back at a job in the East where she is denigrated and unappreciated? Despite the bad treatment she’s set up one of the best reading series in the country and runs a writing center. This is a full time job. Then they added a class for her to teach, then another and another. It wasn’t in her contract but they require it because they can, because somebody will do it if she doesn’t because these jobs are hard to come by. And to whom do I report a relative who will continue on this journey today less part of a leg and an injury inflicted by a faulty surgical procedure for which he’ll most likely receive no compensation because, ironically, he doesn’t have money to pursue a wrong doing? And a cousin knocked down by a stroke who is standing up again, leaning at the kitchen sink making breakfast for herself this morning, trying to make it alone in a little house far from the Oklahoma she fled as a champion barrel racer? Her daughter is nearby, but dragged far, far away into a drug oblivion. Where is her circle of family? And who will take the hands of my beloved sister crippled by rheumatoid arthritis and ease out the knots of rage, of pain?
What poet will come along and sing beautifully and dangerously?
Of all this, all this.
The Chinese New Year’s parade was cancelled on Saturday due to heavy rains, storms. I was disappointed. I looked forward to pushing my friend’s wheelchair through the festivities. The island was flooded with rain. So much rain that the sewers overflowed in the bay where we paddle. Yesterday was our first day out of off-season paddling, after it was suspended because of our New Year’s Eve incident. It was a beautiful morning after the rain as we gathered there. But the water was turgid and brown with sewage here in beautiful Hawaii. We humans are destroying this place. We paddled out with a heaviness, a sadness.
I delighted seeing lightning, hearing thunder. Lightning doesn’t visit here very frequently.
Soon I will be in their realm, as I fly from Honolulu to Los Angeles. It's important to acknowlege the beings of that realm.
Saturday, January 29, 2005
What does it mean to be a musician on a Saturday morning in Honolulu?
It means getting up, calling my sister in Oklahoma who’s turning fifty to sing happy birthday and talking plans, figuring out horn practice time for the morning: not too early but early enough to be ready to head out for errands and obligations. I’m going to the gym, to a paddling club meeting on the other side of the island, and to gather for the Chinese New Year parade where I’m meeting up with the Intertribal society of Honolulu to march in the parade. I’ve been given the honored position of pushing the wheelchair of the beloved leader of the club, my relative Bill Tiger. In the midst of all this, I am working on a song, or should I say, it’s working on me? This one is a stream of momentum that came forth a month ago around a couple of guitar chords. It has breath already, a shimmer, a direction. The words aren’t there yet. I will just have to follow it. I gather parts of it along the way, while traveling along the horizon of this earth, from Honolulu to LA to Park City and back. Faith and belief and an absolute love of dancing feeds it.
Friday, January 28, 2005
A few notes on a Friday night in Honolulu:
An African Proverb:
"The King Fears Only The Poets."
News this week:
Giant squids beached in Newport, California.
A sixty-five-year old woman gives birth.
A 19-pound baby is born to a woman in Brazil.
And voters in Iraq don’t know the names of the candidates, nor where they are to vote.
Now, what’s the real story here?
And be sure and vote for me at www.nammys.com. The voting ends this week.
Other news: My music is now available for easy download on iTunes! Check it out!
A Thousand Roads is getting good reviews at Sundance.
Here’s one by Peter Hanson at Film Threat:
Tomorrow I’ll be in the Chinese New Year Parade, accompanying my relative Bill Tiger and other members of the local native community who’ve been invited to be part of the new year’s festivities.
Seeking submissions for an anthology with the working title:
“Mesas and Towers: Stories from the Southwest”
Salina Bookshelf, Inc. is seeking original written work by American Indian writers located in the Southwest (Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Oklahoma, Southern California, Nevada) region of the United States.
The goal of this anthology is to collect fiction, creative non-fiction, and autobiographies focused on the Southwest experience from the American Indian point of view. Ideally, contributing writers would submit two stories: one that takes place before 1940, and another after 1940. Single submissions are acceptable. We would like a balance of “traditional”/older (before 1940) stories mixed with more contemporary (after 1940) experiences.
Manuscripts considered for publication need to meet the following:
• Genres: fiction, creative non-fiction, autobiography, poetry.
• Submissions cannot exceed 25 pages (6500) words – length of the story is up to the writer, but both stories combined cannot exceed 25 pages.
• Unpublished, original work is preferred; should a previously published or excerpts from a previously published work require a reprint fee, the fee payment is the responsibility of the author.
• Each manuscript should contain a cover sheet with the author’s name, mailing address, email address, and phone number, along with a biographical statement.
• Manuscripts should be typed, double-spaced, on one side only of 8-1/2 x 11 write paper; if sent via email, send using Microsoft Word document.
• Send also a disk or CD-ROM formatted for Microsoft document with hardcopy. Do not send the only copy of your manuscript; make sure you have an original copy of your work. Salina Bookshelf, Inc. is not responsible for any lost manuscripts.
• Please include a self-addressed, stamped envelope with sufficient postage if you wish to have your work returned.
• Submission deadline: May 15, 2005
Send submissions to: DeLyssa K. Begay
P.O. Box 3080
Chinle, Arizona 86503
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
On the Road and iTunes
Tonight the blur of lack of sleep. Started Saturday with early flight from LA to Salt Lake City for the Sundance Film Festival. A Thousand Roads, the Signature film for the National Museum of the American Indian, entered in the "Special" Category (not feature or short) premiered Saturday afternoon at Sundance Village. Chris Eyre directed. Scott Garen and I co-wrote it. A warm response. Dinners, interviews and photos for the next few days. Sundance is dense with attitude, like having LA packed into a few square miles...Then back to LA Monday night, then UCLA early on Tuesday to teach two three-hour classes. Then to Honolulu this morning. So my spirit is still traveling...And a song is urgent for birth...Now, sleep.
PLEASE NOTE: You can now download my Native Joy for Real songs on Apple's iTunes!!!!
Thursday, January 20, 2005
What Marks a Warrior?
Consider these shining words in light of the inauguration speech of the so-called leader of this country:
“In Navajo, a warrior is the one who can use words so everyone knows they are part of the same family. In Navajo, a warrior says what is in the people’s hearts. Talks about what the land means to them. Brings them together to fight for it.”
Learning How to Be Human
I return to the betrayal. It’s a self-betrayal first, or a betrayal of spirit. Isn’t that how betrayal works? There’s some kind of inner warning and it may be subtle and difficult to perceive with the television going or music made to sell you false dreams spinning in your ears. I felt the tug of my spirit. I watched others go out into the etheric ocean and when they veered into a danger this protection came to them. I tested it with another female. We coasted and flew and I sent out a signal to that one to come and see us back safely. There was no response at all. I regret to say that my response wasn’t satisfactory. I wilted briefly into the feel-sorry stance, then when we returned from our adventure I found the spirit and challenged him for his failure to come to us. Maybe I was asking in the wrong direction, or from the wrong mind. The one who is to direct will be there, or will watch from a distance to see how you respond on your own, to see if you are worthy of what they have to teach you. Each day brings opportunities to test yourself against yourself.
This morning I uncurl from knowing in a dark, cool room in my cousin’s duplex in West Hollywood. I can’t even see whether it’s light or dark out. It’s just me and my spirit and the shaking of the world as it starts into the weekday mind. I am fresh from being out in the stars, flying as I used to so consciously as a child, until I was thought to think too much, and put away my dreams. That was one of the earliest betrayals. “It’s just your imagination”, was my mother’s refrain to my traveling stories. I know and knew different, even knew better than to ask her but I wanted a companion made by the sharing of a story.
Sometimes you have to be alone and protection won’t come when you ask for it. Then how will you act? Will you act with dignity? Or slam things around? Or curse? Or turn on the television, have another beer or piece of bread? And what does this have to do with your music or your poetry? Everything. You follow your spirit into the poem or music. There’s an inner space there, much as dream space, and while you are there you are exchanging gifts of knowing, of being, as your human spirit assists in birthing another small world into existence.
Monday, January 10, 2005
The Nammys/ PLEASE VOTE
The finalists for the Native American Music Awards have been announced, and I'm happy to say I've been nominated in three categories:
Best blues/jazz album
Best female performer
and Best songwriter
Please log into www.nammys.com and log in and vote. Everyone's eligible to vote. There are many excellent candidates and other categories. And pass the word along. It will be a fast and furious contest as the awards are held February 10th in Florida.
Thanks for your vote on behalf of native music!
The Canoe Story Delete and Chocolate Chip Cookies
I deleted the canoe story of new year’s eve because the events that day are still quite a sensitive issue. We’ve had to rethink procedures and decisions as a part of the canoe club. It’s interesting how a story shifts in shape as you hear other tellings of the same event. For some it was a life-threatening event, others shrugged it off as nothing, or nearly nothing. But no one has taken the event or the loss of the canoe lightly. It was devastating to leave Maunalua behind, and it’s the first time in the nearly one hundred years of the club that a canoe has been lost. Ever. The canoe too has a life, though, a spirit and has transported us between the water and the sky. It is either hiding out there in the bay (we haven’t found her yet) or is on the way to Kauai. That spirit will need to be formally acknowledged before this is over.
Last Thursday I took a load of mailings to the local Kapalama Post Office. Most people don’t know me here in Honolulu and I don’t particularly look local,: not Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Portuguese, Hawaiian, Samoan, Micronesian, or some blend of the above, though I’ve noticed that in the six years I’ve been here I blend in more and more. Some of the staff at the post office recognize me because I’m a regular customer and usually come dragging in with a stack of large envelopes, boxes and letters. I didn’t know the clerk who waited on me Thursday morning. I recognized her. She’s one of the youngest and newest and probably some mix of Hawaiian, Chinese and haole (white). She greets me warmly. All the staff here is like that: friendly. They are also very exacting in each of their transactions. Nothing gets by them and I’m certain that anything I send from here will make it to where it needs to be with the exact amount of postage and care.
I overheard her tell the customer before me, as she handed him one of the new sheets of stamps for the new year, a set of Chinese new year stamps, something about the numbers and good and bad luck. So while I placed my stack on the counter she reiterated that the numbers of the stamps on one side add up to 444, which for the Chinese is a bad luck number, so they put stamps on both sides and now the numbers add up to 888, a good luck number.
She scanned the label of my first package with her eyes, then casually announced, as if we were in the middle of coffee: “I was talking with A___ A____ the other night.
(Hmm, how does she know A.A.? A.A. used to work with L. And how does she know I know her?)
She continued: “She said you made the best chocolate chip cookies.” We then talked about A.A. for a bit, her gifts and talents. Then I paid up and was on to my next errand in the whirlwind before leaving to start the quarter at UCLA.
That transaction reminds me that in Honolulu I am known first as one of the canoe paddling crowd, who at canoe party jams plays a mean sax, and secondly, as the one who makes those killer chocolate chip cookies. It’s only in the last year that the word is getting out about my other life. That could work for or against me.
Signing out on a rainy rainy Sunday afternoon in LA.
07/01/2003 - 08/01/2003
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