Arts & Entertainment, Writing

Going Into Difficult Places

Joy Harjo

Lesson time 12:37 min

Artists and creators feel intimidated by all kinds of blocks. In this lesson, Joy shares her belief that knowledge is endless and shares ways to access that knowledge, such as learning to draw from your dream world to find meaning. She teaches the necessity of undoing beliefs that hold you back. Drawing on these principles will fortify you to work from an endless abundance of creativity.

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Topics include: Going Into Difficult Places * Poetry as Activism * Case Study: “Rabbit Is Up to Tricks” * Poetry That Tells the Truth * Set the Story Free


[MUSIC PLAYING] - I think the image of a lot of poetry is it lives in high ivory towers, and it's untouchable. And I admire a lot of that poetry, but I needed a poetry that I could wear every day, a poetry that could go with me, a poetry that could be useful, a poetry that could open doors. It is seeing and hearing and it is speaking what is difficult to speak. [MUSIC PLAYING] When I came to writing poetry, I was a student at the University of New Mexico and very involved in Native Rights movements. And the poetry started happening as a way to speak. Poetry became my activism. And I didn't even know until much later exactly what I was doing. But I see that, in our community, we didn't often hear the voices of women. The speakers at rallies and the speakers on behalf of the people were usually men. And I think my poetry became-- it wasn't the only female voice, but it became my own way of processing and dealing with what I was seeing going on, but from a very different perspective, a perspective of being a woman, a perspective of being a mother, a perspective of being part of a female community that was doing a lot of the background work for organizing for justice in the communities. It's been called political, but it's political in the way that the personal is political, and the political is personal. What came through me was this need for justice. Justice motivates me, and a sense of compassion or a sense of relativity. It comes from Muskogee philosophy, which is really rooted in vnokeckv, which is compassion, which is also married with eyasketv, which is humility. So my path to becoming a poet really came through the people. It came through this journey which we still feel. You know, what happens when you uproot a people? Sometimes it feels like the roots are still dangling and raw. But it's directly linked, for me, with Native Rights movements of coming into consciousness. There were some wrongs here. And in order to affect the health of our families and our communities, and really the whole of America and the whole of the world, is that we had to make changes that were difficult to make, at a very intimate level, personally, and at the level within native communities. And it wasn't easy because you had to stand up when it wasn't popular to stand up. So my poetry came out of that. [MUSIC PLAYING] Rabbit is a trickster figure for the Muskogee Creek people, also for West African people. And so, we can watch our human behavior acted out by trickster figures. Usually, you'll find trickster figures, clowns, they're always seated near the seat of power because anyone holding power needs to understand that it doesn't belong just to them. It's something to be shared. And also, we always need humor to loosen things up so that the truth can get through. "Rabbit is Up to Tricks" "In a world long before this one, there was enough for everyone until somebody got out of line. We heard it was Rabbi...

About the Instructor

As the first Native American U.S. Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo has written poetry that explores her personal experiences, the history of her ancestors, and social change. Now she’s teaching you how to find the language to express yourself and approach your art with deeper motivation. Explore rhythm in art, navigate the world of revisions, and unlock your innate creativity to help you express your unique stories.

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Joy Harjo

Joy Harjo, the 23rd U.S. Poet Laureate, teaches you how to find the language to express yourself and approach your art with deeper meaning.

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