The Power of Poetry in America

Tue, January 26, 2021
5:00 PM
Tempe, AZ

January 26, 2021
5 pm MST | via Zoom

Join former Poet Laureate of the United States, Natasha Trethewey (2012-13), and the first Native Poet Laureate of the United States, Joy Harjo, for a reading and conversation.


Language is power. It is not the body, yet it is one of the most important ways in which we carry our bodies, carry our lives, to one another—in desire, in tenderness, in fear or worry, in imagination and wonder. Poetry is one among our many technologies of touch. It requires an attentiveness, to the world, a listening not just with the ear, but with our sensual bodies—it is a call to listen, with our entire life, to the lives of others. Poetry is often referenced as a language we return to in moments of turmoil, as a response to violence or oppression, a way of reminding ourselves we are not the sum of our wounds or those who have inflicted those wounds. Yet, poetry is not always against or in response to—it is a natural condition and celebration of the body and of all life—it is song and story, even in a single word or line or stanza. There once was a world in which someone said the word “fire” for the first time and fire happened. There was a moment in your life when someone called your name for the first time, and just like that, you were spoken into the world. That is one of the many powers of language, as well as one of its dangers—it can be prophetic. Poetry is also a vehicle by which we remember our ancestors and the stories they told—in many ways, we are our ancestors’ stories.

The act of reading or writing a poem are both ways of remembering and manifesting the world we want to live in—singing ourselves into being. Joy Harjo and Natasha Trethewey have both built their lives in language—the intimate and personal language they carry to their pages and the language we receive when we arrive at their pages—a relational life, a reciprocal life, built at least partly of poems. Join us and these two Poet Laureates of the United States, as we talk about the ways poetry gathers and holds us, lifts us, catapults us to action, not only against the violence of the world but also beyond them. Join us as we engage the energy, imagination, and power of poetry, as a community, as an important part of the beautiful and capacious world we are imagining for one another.