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Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 171 pgs.
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Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo, which does include some poems, is what I would imagine a dream walk to be. Harjo shifts from moment to moment in a surreal walk through her memories. She explores her Native American heritage through the eyes of a young child and a woman who is looking for her place in a family and culture where women’s decisions/desires are secondary.

“In the end, we must each tend to our own gulfs of sadness, though others can assist us with kindness, food, good words, and music.” (pg. 23)

“I imagine this place in the story as a long silence. It is an eternity of gray skies. It runs the length of late elementary school through adolescence.” (pg. 63)

Throughout the memoir, there is a cleaving. A family broken apart by a step-father who seeks control over all in his dominion, even children who are not biologically his own and forces them to make adult decisions at too young an age. But there is also the breaking apart of a woman in that she needs to separate herself from that past and her current life to find a voice buried inside and trying to break free.

“For the true warriors of the world, fighting is the last resort to solving a conflict. Every effort is made to avoid bloodshed.” (pg. 150)

Harjo teaches that through pain and suffering there is still beauty and love. Loving oneself can provide the peace we seek, and it also enables us to find our own voices and trails. While she suffered from her mother’s decisions and her father’s abandonment, there is still love there for a family who gave her life. This is not a complete life story, but it is a journey — it is Harjo’s path to poetry. Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo is a homage to those that came before, a nod to her present, and a dream for a future.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Joy Harjo is an American poet, musician, playwright, and author. She served as the 23rd United States Poet Laureate, the first Native American to hold that honor. She was also only the second Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to have served three terms.

Mailbox Monday #671

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Velvet, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

This is what we received:

Where We Stand: Poems of Black Resilience edited by Melanie Henderson, Enzo Silon Surin, and Truth Thomas

“This anthology is the official answer for how we/us survived the apex of multiple pandemics. With recipes for survival like Tara Betts’ “Stay Lit” and ol’ school incantations illuminating truths like Kenneth Carroll’s “This Muvfucka,” we marry ourselves to the future, without ever once forgetting what Lisa Pegram says, “Even a sponge has a saturation point.” Part declaration of not dependent, part sacred text, this collection is both who we are and how we shall continue to be—all in the same breath.”

– Frank X. Walker, author of Masked Man, Black: Pandemic & Protest Poems and Turn Me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar Evers.

Make Me Rain by Nikki Giovanni, which I purchased.

For more than fifty years, Nikki Giovanni’s poetry has dazzled and inspired readers. As sharp and outspoken as ever, she returns with this profound book of poetry in which she continues to call attention to injustice and racism, celebrate Black culture and Black lives, and give readers an unfiltered look into her own experiences.

In Make Me Rain, she celebrates her loved ones and unapologetically declares her pride in her Black heritage, while exploring the enduring impact of the twin sins of racism and white nationalism. Giovanni reaffirms her place as a uniquely vibrant and relevant American voice with poems such as “I Come from Athletes” and “Rainy Days”—calling out segregation and Donald Trump; as well as “Unloved (for Aunt Cleota)” and “When I Could No Longer”—her personal elegy for the relatives who saved her from an abusive home life.

Stirring, provocative, and resonant, the poems in Make Me Rain pierce the heart and nourish the soul.

Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo, which I purchased.

In this transcendent memoir, grounded in tribal myth and ancestry, music and poetry, Joy Harjo details her journey to becoming a poet. Born in Oklahoma, the end place of the Trail of Tears, Harjo grew up learning to dodge an abusive stepfather by finding shelter in her imagination, a deep spiritual life, and connection with the natural world. Narrating the complexities of betrayal and love, Crazy Brave is a haunting, visionary memoir about family and the breaking apart necessary in finding a voice.

With Love From London by Sarah Jio, which I purchased.

When Valentina Baker was only eleven years old, her mother, Eloise, unexpectedly fled to her native London, leaving Val and her father on their own in California. Now a librarian in her thirties, fresh out of a failed marriage and still at odds with her mother’s abandonment, Val feels disenchanted with her life.

In a bittersweet twist of fate, she receives word that Eloise has died, leaving Val the deed to her mother’s Primrose Hill apartment and the Book Garden, the storied bookshop she opened almost two decades prior. Though the news is devastating, Val jumps at the chance for a new beginning and jets across the Atlantic, hoping to learn who her mother truly was while mourning the relationship they never had.

As Val begins to piece together Eloise’s life in the U.K., she finds herself falling in love with the pastel-colored third-floor flat and the cozy, treasure-filled bookshop, soon realizing that her mother’s life was much more complicated than she ever imagined. When Val stumbles across a series of intriguing notes left in a beloved old novel, she sets out to locate the book’s mysterious former owner, though her efforts are challenged from the start, as is the Book Garden’s future. In order to save the store from financial ruin and preserve her mother’s legacy, she must rally its eccentric staff and journey deep into her mother’s secrets. With Love from London is a story about healing and loss, revealing the emotional, relatable truths about love, family, and forgiveness.

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry, which I purchased after I saw it on Book Chatter.

Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart—she’s in New York City, and he’s in their small hometown—but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together.

Until two years ago, when they ruined everything. They haven’t spoken since.

Poppy has everything she should want, but she’s stuck in a rut. When someone asks when she was last truly happy, she knows, without a doubt, it was on that ill-fated, final trip with Alex. And so, she decides to convince her best friend to take one more vacation together—lay everything on the table, make it all right. Miraculously, he agrees.

Now she has a week to fix everything. If only she can get around the one big truth that has always stood quietly in the middle of their seemingly perfect relationship. What could possibly go wrong?

Falling Leaves: An Interfaith Anthology on the Topic of Consolation and Loss edited by Susan Meehan and Robert Bettmann, which I purchased.

Arising from a time of unprecedented trauma and loss, this collection of poems sets its readers on a healing journey… An encouraging read for those in despair, and for those just needing to know that they are not alone.

— The Rev. Dr. David B. Lindsey, Interfaith Council of Metropolitan Washington (DC)

The book gathers more than 40 poems by DC area poets on the topic, organized into sections on New Prayer, Acceptance, Loss, and Healing. Contributors include: Jeffrey Banks, Katya Buresh, Regie Cabico. Chris Farago, Stephanie Gemmell, Kira Hall, Laura Hart, W. Luther Jett, Jacqueline Jules, Michele Kay, Brian Leibold, Laura Martin, Susan Meehan, Kim B. Miller, Anna Postelnyak, Bernard Riefner, Dominique Rispoli, Jane Schapiro, Ori Z Soltes, Lori Tsang, Phibby Venable, Walter Weinschenk, and Jon Wood.

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #631

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

ALERT: We’re looking for a new host to help us with MM — if you have experience with WordPress or Mr. Linky, feel free to apply.

Here’s what we received:

These are the books I won on Instagram from Capitol Hill Books and The Literary Hill BookFest:

Blue Laws edited by Kevin Young

Blue Laws gathers poems written over the past two decades, drawing from all nine of Kevin Young’s previously published books of poetry and including a number of uncollected, often unpublished, poems. From his stunning lyric debut (Most Way Home, 1995) and the amazing “double album” life of Jean-Michel Basquiat (2001;”remixed” for Knopf in 2005), through his brokenhearted Jelly Roll: A Blues (2003) and his recent forays into adult grief and the joys of birth in Dear Darkness (2008) and Book of Hours (2014), this collection provides a grand tour of a poet whose personal poems and political poems are equally riveting. Together with wonderful outtakes and previously unseen blues, the profoundly felt poems here of family, Southern food, and loss are of a piece with the depth of personal sensibility and humanity found in his Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels or bold sequences such as “The Ballad of Jim Crow” and a new “Homage to Phillis Wheatley.”

How We Became Human by Joy Harjo

Over a quarter-century’s work from the 2003 winner of the Arrell Gibson Award for Lifetime Achievement.

This collection gathers poems from throughout Joy Harjo’s twenty-eight-year career, beginning in 1973 in the age marked by the takeover at Wounded Knee and the rejuvenation of indigenous cultures in the world through poetry and music. How We Became Human explores its title question in poems of sustaining grace.

Renascence & Other Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay

This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it. This work was reproduced from the original artifact, and remains as true to the original work as possible. Therefore, you will see the original copyright references, library stamps (as most of these works have been housed in our most important libraries around the world), and other notations in the work.

This work is in the public domain in the United States of America, and possibly other nations. Within the United States, you may freely copy and distribute this work, as no entity (individual or corporate) has a copyright on the body of the work.

As a reproduction of a historical artifact, this work may contain missing or blurred pages, poor pictures, errant marks, etc. Scholars believe, and we concur, that this work is important enough to be preserved, reproduced, and made generally available to the public. We appreciate your support of the preservation process, and thank you for being an important part of keeping this knowledge alive and relevant.

The Break-Up Book Club by Wendy Wax for review.

On paper, Jazmine, Judith, Erin and Sara have little in common – they’re very different people leading very different lives. And yet at book club meetings in an historic carriage house turned bookstore, they bond over a shared love of reading (and more than a little wine) as well as the growing realization that their lives are not turning out like they expected.

Former tennis star Jazmine is a top sports agent balancing a career and single motherhood. Judith is an empty nester questioning her marriage and the supporting role she chose. Erin’s high school sweetheart and fiancé develops a bad case of cold feet, and Sara’s husband takes a job out of town saddling Sara with a difficult mother-in-law who believes her son could have done better – not exactly the roommate most women dream of.

With the help of books, laughter, and the joy of ever evolving friendships, Jazmine, Judith, Erin and Sara find the courage to navigate new and surprising chapters of their lives as they seek their own versions of happily-ever-after.

What did you receive?

332nd Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 332nd Virtual Poetry Circle!

Remember, this is just for fun and is not meant to be stressful.

Keep in mind what Molly Peacock’s book suggested.

Look at a line, a stanza, sentences, and images; describe what you like or don’t like; and offer an opinion. If you missed my review of her book, check it out here.

This poem is from Joy Harjo:

Perhaps the World Ends Here

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

What do you think?

140th Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 140th Virtual Poetry Circle!

Remember, this is just for fun and is not meant to be stressful.

Keep in mind what Molly Peacock’s books suggested. Look at a line, a stanza, sentences, and images; describe what you like or don’t like; and offer an opinion. If you missed my review of her book, check it out here.

Also, sign up for the 2012 Fearless Poetry Reading Challenge because its simple; you only need to read 1 book of poetry. Please visit the stops on the National Poetry Month Blog Tour from April 2011 and beginning again in April 2012.

Today’s poems is from Joy Harjo:

Equinox

I must keep from breaking into the story by force
for if I do I will find myself with a war club in my hand
and the smoke of grief staggering toward the sun,
your nation dead beside you.

I keep walking away though it has been an eternity
and from each drop of blood
springs up sons and daughters, trees,
a mountain of sorrows, of songs. 

I tell you this from the dusk of a small city in the north
not far from the birthplace of cars and industry.
Geese are returning to mate and crocuses have 
broken through the frozen earth.

Soon they will come for me and I will make my stand
before the jury of destiny. Yes, I will answer in the clatter
of the new world, I have broken my addiction to war
and desire. Yes, I will reply, I have buried the dead

and made songs of the blood, the marrow.

What do you think?