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This event is part of the 2021 PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature. Visit pen.org/festival to learn more and get tickets for other events.
“I release you, my beautiful and terrible fear. / I release you,” writes Joy Harjo in her poem “I Give You Back,” now reconceived, on her first album in 10 years, as the track “Fear,” a liberatory incantation across a menacing landscape of drums, bass, and distantly roaring guitar. The U.S. Poet Laureate and consummate musician describes to Iowa Public Radio that the album, I Pray for My Enemies, came together “during [the] pandemic, during a lot of fear and fear-based division. . . during a really harsh political time of racial hatred,” and that, like much music in Mvskoke tradition, it “was created to be useful.” Harjo, who plays saxophone and flute and has produced six albums in addition to highly acclaimed volumes of poetry, children’s books, and memoirs, here brings music and the stories and sounds of her experience as a member of the Mvskoke (Creek) Nation into funky, vibrant spoken word. In her own words, I Pray for My Enemies addresses “an urgent need to deal with discord and opposition” through song in the hopes of inspiring hearts all around the world “to beat together.”
In light of the album’s release and in anticipation of her groundbreaking anthology of First peoples’ poetry, Living Nations, Living Words (out this May), Harjo discusses life, music, and activism in the aftermath of the pandemic, and Native poetry as a gateway to understanding American history. She will be interviewed by the Irish poet and theologian Pádraig Ó Tuama.
This digital event will start at 12pm ET / 9am PT. If you have any questions, please visit our FAQs.
Presented in collaboration with Magic City Books.