Catching the Light
United States 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.
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. Comprised 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.
Harjo insists 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.
"Always illuminating, Harjo writes as if the creative journey has been the destination all along."
“[Harjo’s] poetry is light and elixir, the very best prescription for us in wounded times.”
—Sandra Cisneros, The Millions
“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.”
Weaving Sundown in a Scarlet Light
Fifty Poems for Fifty Years
A magnificent selection of fifty poems to celebrate three-term US Poet Laureate Joy Harjo’s fifty years as a poet.
Over a long, influential career in poetry, Joy Harjo has been praised for her “warm, oracular voice” (John Freeman, Boston Globe) that speaks “from a deep and timeless source of compassion for all” (Craig Morgan Teicher, NPR). Her poems are musical, intimate, political, and wise, intertwining ancestral memory and tribal histories with resilience and love.
In this gemlike volume, Harjo selects her best poems from across fifty years, beginning with her early discoveries of her own voice and ending with moving reflections on our contemporary moment. Weaving Sundown in a Scarlet Light traces every occasion of a lifetime; it offers poems on birth, death, love, and resistance; on motherhood and on losing a parent; on fresh beginnings amidst legacies of displacement. Generous notes on each poem offer insight into Harjo’s inimitable poetics as she takes inspiration from sunrise and horse songs and jazz, reckons with home and loss, and listens to the natural messengers of the earth.
With a beautiful introduction by bestselling author Sandra Cisneros, Weaving Sundown in a Scarlet Light is a stunning appreciation of an essential, original, and trailblazing voice in American poetry.
Praise for Weaving Sundown in a Scarlet Light
"Joy Harjo’s work is both very old and very new. She tells stories in verse, sometimes highly compressed, sometimes long and winding, which ritually invoke and link her to roots and sources. She seeks continuity between what she calls her ‘past and future ancestors,’ and views each poem as a ceremonial object with the potential to make change. She has found a singing language for grief and meaningfully transforms the American story. Her work is a long-lasting contribution to our literature.”
“Joy’s poetry voice is indeed ancient. She has always been a visionary. A healer. A guide. . . . The poems in this collection are a song cycle, a woman warrior’s journey in this era, reaching backward and forward and waking in the present moment. A chant for survival.”
“Harjo, though very much a poet of America, extracts from her own personal and cultural touchstones a more galactal understanding of the world, and her poems become richer for it. Here, she says, is a living, breathing earth to which we’re all connected. Here is unbridled potential for the poetic—in everything, even in ourselves.”
—Maya Phillips, The New Yorker
“These poems taken from half a century of Harjo’s work show the powerful words and moving themes that have made her an unforgettable voice in the world of poetry.”