May 03, 2021ArapahoeJulieH rated this title 5 out of 5 stars
Joy Harjo, Poet Laureate, opens a dialog with American history in the form of essays, commentaries and poetry.
Many of the poems in this collection are reflections from Harjo’s return, after 200 years, to her Mvskoke homeland east of the Mississippi. “I returned to see what I would find, in these lands we were forced to leave behind.” Culminating with: “No one had told us how beautiful it was: the waters of this river, these healing plants, these stones, these winds roaming through on sunlight and rains, all the suns of our lost days. They couldn't remember because to remember would have killed us when nothing else did.” (p.103)
The poems follow the Trail of Tears but not in linear time, for Harjo’s vision is not a historical event fixed in time (1830-1850) but rather a circular continuum where past, present and future coalesce around the whole. “The indigenous peoples who are making their way up from the southern hemisphere are a continuation of the Trail of Tears.” The poem, Exile of Memory, laments Native displacement over hundreds of years (p.9) mirroring the horrors put into place at the southern border by the former administration. Also rendered in the poem Advice for Countries, Advanced, Developing for Falling (p.79-80)
The poem, Honoring, (p.68) asks us to pay respect to those (mostly indigenous peoples of the world today) the growers and harvesters of our food, the makers and dyers of our clothing, etc.
Harjo concludes this collection with Bless This Land…a plea to us, as Americans, to take responsibility for what’s been done and continues to be done in our names. A superb collection from one of America's most important and resonant voices!