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An American Sunrise

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  2,449 ratings  ·  399 reviews
In the early 1800s, the Mvskoke people were forcibly removed from their original lands east of the Mississippi to Indian Territory, which is now part of Oklahoma. Two hundred years later, Joy Harjo returns to her family’s lands and opens a dialogue with history. In An American Sunrise, Harjo finds blessings in the abundance of her homeland and confronts the site where her ...more
Hardcover, 116 pages
Published August 13th 2019 by W. W. Norton & Company
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Average rating 4.34  · 
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 ·  2,449 ratings  ·  399 reviews

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Diane S ☔
Jan 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nfr-2020
There is nothing quite like poetry to give balm to ones soul. Thoughts, feelings, praises, regret, hopes, dreams told with few words but great emotion. Here, the US poet Laurete, Jo Harjo returns to her native land and in a series of works honors what was, what was lost, taken away and what will never come again. The poems are beautiful, regretful and bittersweet, but most of assessible to all readers, lovers of poetry or not.

The piece I'm quoting is part of a longer work, but this section calle
Aug 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Joy Harjo has been named the new US Poet Laureate in 2019, becoming the first Native American to hold the position. American Sunrise is her first published work since becoming the top poet in the United States, and, as with other collections of hers that I have read, she does not disappoint here. This new volume pays homage to her ancestors who traveled the Trail of Tears. Her spiritual grandfather Monawee has been able to travel beyond the boundaries of time and visit members of his tribe and b ...more
Dec 04, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Some nice cross-pollination between this and her memoir, Crazy Brave. I chose the audible version in which Harjo reads her own work. Lovely voice. Except when she sings. Her poetry is informative; it very organically paints a portrait of Native American culture and experience. But her poetry is ok. I liked it more as I listened, and then by the end I was tired of it. Still, I enjoyed the experience of learning through her, and the two books together supported the learning of that experience.
Leslie Reese
Sep 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, favorites
Singing Everything
by Joy Harjo

Once there were songs for everything,
Songs for planting, for growing, for harvesting,
For eating, getting drunk, falling asleep,
For sunrise, birth, mind-break, and war.
For death (those are the heaviest songs and they
Have to be pried from the earth with shovels of grief).
Now all we hear are falling-in-love songs and
Falling apart after falling in love songs.
The earth is leaning sideways
And a song is emerging from the floods
And fires. Urgent tendrils lift toward the
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Apr 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, read2020
USA Poet Laureate Joy Harjo returns to the lands her (Mvskoke, sometimes referred to as Creek) grandparents were removed from, and writes here about the history, the experience, the people. Brief blurbs explaining history and quotes from oral histories and other poets are interwoven with her own work. Time moves in a spiral and the generations are not finished speaking.

Favorites include:
Directions to You
Washing My Mother's Body
For Earth's Grandsons
Let There Be No Regrets

"...And no matter what ha
Oct 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Named the Poet Laureate of the United States in 2019, Joy Harjo has written a collection of poems honoring her tribal history, her mother, ancestors, singing, remembrance, exile, saxophone, spirituality, and much more. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act. Her tribal ancestors of Muscogees (Mvskokes) were ousted from their homes and lands in Alabama, forced to abandon their lives and possessions, and trudged a Trail of Tears to the Oklahoma Territory. I was surprised to ...more
Who sings to the plants
That are grown for our plates?
Are they gathered lovingly
In aprons or arms?
Or do they suffer the fate
Of the motor-driven whip
Of the monster reaper?
No song at all, only
The sound of money
Being stacked in a bank
Who stitched the seams in my clothes
One line after another?
Was the room sweaty and dark
With no hour to spare?
Did she have enough to eat?
Did she have a home anywhere?
Or did she live on the floor?
And where were the children?
Or was the seamstress the child
With no home of h
Sep 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is the first poetry I’ve read by Joy Harjo, who was named US Poet Laureate in 2019. In 1830 Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, forcing indigenous peoples out of the southeastern United States. Harjo’s family were force-marched from current-day Alabama to Oklahoma. This collection takes that Trail of Tears as a backbone, interweaving experiences from Harjo’s own life and politics, as well as relationships with the natural world, family, and those around her. I was grateful to lear ...more
Oct 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: social-justice
Thought provoking, vivid, and mindfully rooted in Mvskoke heritage.
For Those Who Would Govern" is a wise lyrical poem in 7 questions.
I feel honored to again listen to this wise woman read her poetic verse.
Mar 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There aren’t that many books of poems that are like this: a journey, a witnessing, a testimony, a lyric, a song, a history, a lament, a condemnation, a love bigger than the world.

In Sunday school we were told Lot’s wife Looked back and turned To salt. But her family wasn’t leaving Paradise. We loved our trees and waters And the creatures and earths and skies In that beloved place. Those beings were our companions Even as they fed us, cared for us. If I turn to salt It will be of petrified tears
Dec 30, 2020 rated it liked it
Claire Nichols speaks to Joy Harjo who is a musician, playwright and poet of the Muscogee Creek Nation.

Joy is also the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States and her most recent book of poetry is An American Sunrise.

Claire also speaks to Joy about her memoir Crazy Brave.

The music played at the beginning and end of this program is Morning Song by Joy Harjo.

First broadcast March 9 2020.

Duration: 54min 4sec

The Book Show with Claire Nichols ABC Radio Nationa
Jan 10, 2021 rated it really liked it
"So many earth spirits take care of this place. They emerge from the cliff walls.
They emerge from the waves of waters.

Our ancestors are not only human ancestors.
What do you see when you fly to the top of the ancestor tree?

Let there be no regrets, no sadness, no anger, no acts of disturbance to these lands."
Viv JM
Dec 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
I struggle to review poetry but I can say that I found this a very moving collection of poems - recommended.
Anna Baillie-Karas
Apr 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I loved this extraordinary book of poetry, broken up with short extracts from history and Joy Harjo’s reflections. I enjoyed the variety & innovation in structure & the way some of the poems were moving and poignant without being heavy. An important re-telling of history done with a light touch, with poems that are both rich and playful. A short book that will reward re-reading.
Joseph Spuckler
Jan 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Story of forced migration in verse. Powerful new moving.w
Shane Douglas Douglas
You think you can write poetry, then you read someone like indigenous American 3 time poet laureate Joy Harjo and realize you still have a LOT to learn. Harjo is a force to be reckoned with. Her voice is powerful and her words are imbued with magic that will change you. There's a damn good reason she's only the second person in our history to be named laureate 3 times (previously only Robert Pinsky had held that honor). This book will show you what that reason is. ...more
Peter Tillman
Oct 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Joy Harjo is also an accomplished musician -- she blows a mean sax -- and a lot of her poems are 'really' lyrics to her songs. Put her into Spotify (or whatever) and explore a bit. I'll be back.

I grew up in Oklahoma and am part Cherokee myself. Pres. Jackson's Indian Removal Act of 1830 is one of the most shameful parts of our Nation's history These were people who were trying to adapt to the American Way. It didn't work. Greedy settlers stole their land anyway, and turned them off their propert
Feb 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely exquisite. Heartwrenching, reflective, compassionate, imaginative; Harjo breathes nuances of life and culture into her personal path of traveling her family's route during forced migration. I was struck by the environment of inclusion she facilitated for her audience. As her reader, I felt invited to travel, learn, observe, and feel alongside her. This collection should be required reading in school. ...more
Sep 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Our current Poet Laureate looks back in memory, horror, honor, curiosity at the trials of her people, the Mvskoke, forcibly removed in the early 1800s from their homes east of the Mississippi, to Indian Territory, now part of Oklahoma. She looks at our current moment with concern, anger, but remarkably, hope, and gives the reader cause to keep looking forward for the same. The mind reels at the thought that we can have such a Poet Laureate on hand at a time when cruelty and ignorance sullies our ...more
Jun 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
How lucky we are that President Trump is not in charge of appointing the U.S. Poet Laureate. Poems for our times. Poems documenting crimes against people and the land, the struggle before us, the hope and promise of a better world that does exist. Poems that particularly resonated were The Fight, How to Write a Poem in a Time of War, First Morning (Rest in Power Palouse Tribal Chief Jesse Nightwalker--it felt written for you), An American Sunrise, Bless this Land, By the Way. I have a small stac ...more
Kristin Boldon
A beautiful, textured book. So much to love here.
May 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Nov 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
I had the pleasure of listening to Joy read from this latest collection of poems on a Zoom event organized by UVA just before Thanksgiving and I was enthralled and brought to tears by her voice, her wisdom, her storytelling, her songs and her music. I felt the same again and more listening to the audio version which is read by Joy herself. She talks, she reads, she sings. She explains - gives a little back story both personal and cultural history for some of the poems. If you are HUMAN there WIL ...more
Autumn Byrd
Jul 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Words can't express the whirlwind of emotions this book made me feel.


Content/Trigger Warnings: Death, loss of a loved one, grief, colonization and oppression, transgenerational and intergenerational trauma

Nov 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This powerful collection of poetry is beautifully read by the author. US Poet Laureate Harjo revisits her peoples native land, exploring their rich history and connection to the land, the terrible horror of colonialism and displacement and the beauty and grace of reconnection, weaving in music and more personal experiences of loss, love and hope. It is a gorgeous experience.

Nov 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
I loved the mix of prose and poetry. For some reason I don’t read much poetry and collections like these make me wonder why! Some of my favorites: Cehotosakvtes, Directions to You, A Refuge in the Smallest of Places, and Honoring.
Lake Villa District Library
Reading Our Way to Better Days in 2021: Book written by an author of color. Find this book in our catalog! ...more
Jan 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Will I always feel like a beginner when it comes to reading poetry? That said, such an honor to read this collection by the first Native American to be named Poet Laureate of the U.S.
Feb 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Harjo offers us a prayer, a requiem, a protest, and a history. This is damn good poetry. The poem about her mother made me cry.
David Curry
Oct 20, 2019 rated it liked it
I wish Joy Harjo’s latest collection of poetry, An American Sunrise, contained more stanzas as surely achieved as this, in “I Wonder What You Are Thinking,” a poem about birds:

Her body is stirring with eggs. She tucks found materials
Into their nest with her beak.
The nerves in her wingtips sense rains coming to soften the ground
to send food to the surface of the earth.

That’s impeccably achieved. (Harjo returns to birds in “Redbird Love, ” one of the stronger poems in the collection.) But far too
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Bio Joy Harjo
Joy Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and is a member of the Mvskoke Nation. She has released four award-winning CD's of original music and won a Native American Music Award (NAMMY) for Best Female Artist of the Year. She performs nationally and internationally solo and with her band, The Arrow Dynamics. She has appeared on HBO's Def Poetry Jam, in venues in every major U.S. city and

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