The Self is a Very Complex Event

My friend, the poet William Pitt Root reminded me I'd said: "The self is a very complex event"--during a recent appearance at Bookworks in Albuquerque to promote a new CD release (which I haven't officially announced yet) of a spoken word CD: She Had Some Horses, to accompany the re-release of the book. It's been in publication for 30 years, an imprint of Thunder's Mouth Press, no part of Avalon Publishing.

I don't always remember what I say. Speaking is or can be a creative act, as much as writing.

The self is a complex event and this particular self is under reconstruction.

Interesting the comments when I tell people that I am teaching at UNM only in the fall semester. "Oh, so you're on vacation?" I've heard this frequently during this season of getting together with family and friends, and non-professional associations. My musician, writer, poet, artist friends know that what I will be up to without asking. I have many writing and music projects in the works. Everyone else thinks I'm not working. I've battled with that all of my life--"oh, since you're not doing anything" (I'm writing away with monies from an NEA grant--{I could use grant or award money these days for my projects, if anyone has ideas...])"can you pick up my cleaners?". I've noticed that male artists don't have this problem, not to the extent of women. I always admired my male musical partners who appear to always be creating. Usually they have or had wives or girlfriends who made sure they had meals and washed their clothes, who take care of the domestic aspects of their lives. They didn't or don't have the primary responsibilites of children or (extended) family. Those tasks are ongoing, even when the children are grown.

Many questions, and knots of problems are gathered around me as I stand at the precipice of the new year (the new year according to the Christian calendar). Every day is literally the beginning of a new year, but this particular time which marks a changing of the seasons, towards winter and introspection. I'm concerned about the direction of the tribe and a lack of a cohesive and energetic vision, I'm concerned about the general state of compassion or lack thereof, about the fascist governement in power in this country, about the squeezing of my heart with the pressures of sadness that is all of the family (blood, in laws, ex laws, outlaws, etc etc) stories and recent deaths around alcohol, drugs, abuse, about the recent destructive trends in weather--all of this has been predicted. We have been duly warned that if we do not actively take part in and acknowledge the gifts of this earth, and the very spirits of the earth and skies then we will forget who we are and it will all fall apart.

We are in the falling apart. And we're in it together. We have to keep going.

Tonight I figure I'm either exhausted or depressed. Tomorrow I will get up and the sun will give me energy to keep going--I am going to have to find another way, though--this particular route has been exhausted.

What delighted today, however, was a monk seal who crawled up on the beach and enjoyed the sun with all the picnickers and surfers and (a few brave) paddlers (I wasn't one of them...did not wish to brave the break). They are rare. And the three whales frolicking just off shore.

And then there's what I don't write here, what I don't say, the ghost blog. Maybe next time.


Classic Vine

And then, sometimes I sing and nothing happens but inspired noise!

Yesterday we held the memorial reading for Vine at the UNM Library's Willard Room. Mary Bowannie told us about the family's memorial in Golden, Colorado and her stories of Vine. We heard many stories, jokes and touching vignettes about the powerful influence of this man, his words and his actions, from students, staff, faculty and community members. I left with renewed vision and energy to keep going in this place.

Here's one of my favorite stories from his classic, Custer Died for Your Sins, first released in 1969, a primer of inspiration for Indian people everywhere. Enjoy.

“On the Standing Rock reservation in South Dakota my grandfather served as the Episcopal missionary for years after his conversion to Christianity. He spent a great deal of his time trying to convert old Chief Gall, one of the strategists of Custer’s demise, and a very famous and influential member of the tribe.
My grandfather gave Gall every argument in the book and some outside the book but the old man was adamant in keeping his old Indian ways. Neither the joys of heaven nor the perils of hell would sway the old man. But finally, because he was fond of my grandfather, he decided to become an Epsicopalian.
He was baptized and by Christmas of that year was ready to take his first communion. He fasted all day and attended the Christmas Eve services that evening.
The weather was bitterly cold and the little church was heated by an old wood stove placed in the center of the church. Gall, as the most respected member of the community, was given the seat of honor next to the stove where he could keep warm.
In deference to the old man, my grandfather offered him the communion first. Gall took the chalice and drained the entire supply of wine before returning to his seat. The wine had been intended for the entire congregation, and so the old man had a substantial amount of spiritual refreshment.
Upon returning to his warm seat by the stove, it was not long before the wine took its toll on the old man who by now had had nothing to eat for nearly a day.
“Grandson,” he called to my grandfather, “now I see why you wanted me to become a Christian. I feel fine, so nice and warm and happy. Why didn’t you tell me that Christians did this every Sunday. If you had told me about this, I would have joined your church years ago.”

Vine Deloria, Jr., Custer Died for Your Sins, 1969


Singing, Death and Dreaming

“The singing always teaches me something. The other day I had a sore throat, had started getting sick. This song came and after singing it my throat was healed.” From a message I wrote this morning to J.W.

Sometimes I forget these things.

Last night someone without the power to show themselves, or me without the power to see was to my left again. Kept feeling D.H, my recently passed cousin. I told her to come to me in my dreams and let me know if there was something she wanted. For instance, does she want the truck to go to S.? Or was she forced by fear and painkillers to sign a makeshift paper because this one promised to take her home from the hospital when the staff said no, she couldn't go? She told me more than once that it was to go to P., a young man who had helped her consistently through her difficulty. That makes more sense. In the end months of her life, she was duped by her daughter’s druggie friends. D.H. wanted to badly to go home and yet it was in that place that she fell ill due to lack of care. Home is home. I can easily understand that ache. What does she know now that she has left this world? Was the sense of it all illuminated? Did she remember the shine of the inner home, who she really is? Or did this freshly left place feel consequently like a dream, the way that some of our dreams feel now? We wake up with stories to tell, lives and deaths lived, visions, and question: dd it really happen? Then the day unfolds and we tell ourselves: it was just a dream and I have awakened. Then, in that world after this one, do we go on our way with our same cloud of disillusions, lack of knowledge and foresight?


Vine Deloria, Jr Memorial at UNM This Wednesday November 30th

Vine Deloria, Jr. was one of Indian Country’s best. He was a beloved and respected (and sometimes controversial) scholar, visionary, humorist, revolutionary, and human being. He was a primary spokesman of native cultural and political identity.

Vine Deloria, Jr. passed on from this world the morning of, November 13th, 2005 from Denver, Colorado. There was no one else like him. The magnitude of our loss is stunning.

Deloria was born March 26, 1933 in Martin, S.D. near the Pine Ridge Reservation. He was Standing Rock Sioux and trained as a theologian and an attorney.

Custer Died For Your Sins blasted Indians into the cultural atmosphere of American thought in 1969. His sardonic humor was the real power in this book, a book some have called a manifesto.

Yet some of his most important work was from 1964 to 1967, when he worked for the National Conference of American Indians. He became a leading spokesman for Indians in Washington as the group's leader.

'I think he opened Americans' eyes to the real history of Native Americans and the injustice of past federal policies,'' said John Echohawk, executive director of the Native American Rights Fund in Boulder. '''Through Vine's leadership, tribes started to stand on their treaties and their right to self-determination,'' he said.

"If you mark down the great figures of the American West in recent times, he belongs there because of his role in reshaping Indian country," said Charles F. Wilkinson, a professor of law at the University of Colorado and a longtime friend. "I think in the last 100 years, he's been the most important person in Indian affairs, period."

"We have brought the white man a long way in 500 years," he wrote in an Op-Ed article in The New York Times in 1976. "From a childish search for mythical cities of gold and fountains of youth to the simple recognition that lands are essential for human existence."

He held a number of teaching positions during his career, and retired from the University of Colorado in 2000.

His many books include: Behind the Trail of Broken Treaties, The Metaphysics of Modern Existence, We Talk,You Listen: New Tribes, New Turf, and God is Red.

His lasting concern was for a compassionate vision for this place, one that included justice and a comprehensive understanding of the humanity of all life on this earth. The immensity of his gift--remains. We still need his vision in this world shifting drastically about us.

Vine Deloria, Jr. is survived by his wife, Barbara, of Golden; three children, Philip, Daniel and Jeanne; a brother; a sister; and seven grandchildren
A memorial reading to honor the gift of the life of Vine Deloria, Jr

November 30th, 2006
Willard Reading Room, Zimmerman Library
University of New Mexico Main Campus
1-4 P.M.
Free and Open to the Public

Hosted by The Indigenous Nations Library Program (INLP), Native American Studies (NAS), Indian Law Program -UNM School of Law, Native American Studies Indigenous Research Group (NASIRG), KIVA Club, Native American Health Sciences Society, and Joy Harjo.

If you are interested in reading, please email Joy Harjo at jharjo@unm.edu
For other information email Mary Bowannie at mkbow@unm.edu or call NAS at 277-3917
If you have photographs to share for the Powerpoint presentation, email them directly to Patrick Willink at nlwp@unm.edu


For a Girl Becoming (by request) for personal use only, no reprinting


for Krista Rae Chico

That day your spirit came to us rains came in from the Pacific to bless
They peered over the mountains in response to the singing of medicine plants
Who danced back and forth in shawls of mist
Your mother labored there, so young in earthly years
And your father, and all of us who loved you gathered, where
Pollen blew throughout that desert house to bless
With the fragrant knowledge of your pending arrival here.
And horses were running the land, hundreds of them
To accompany you here, to bless.

Girl, I wonder what you thought as you paused there in your spirit house
Before you entered into the breathing world to be with us?
Were you lonely for us, too?
Our relatives in that beloved place dressed you in black hair,
Brown eyes, skin the color of earth, and turned you in this direction.
We want you to know that we urgently gathered to welcome you here; we came
Bearing gifts to celebrate:
From your mother’s house we brought: poetry, music, medicine makers, stubbornness, beauty, tribal leaders, a yard filled with junked cars and the gift of knowing how to make them run.
We carried tobacco and cedar, new clothes and joy for you.
And from your father’s house came educators, thinkers, dreamers, weavers and mathematical genius.
They carried a cradleboard, hope, white shell and turquoise for you.
We brought blankets to wrap you in, soft beaded moccasins of deerskin.

Did you hear us as you traveled from your rainbow house?
We called you with thunder, with singing.
Did you see us as we gathered in the town beneath the mountains?
We were dressed in concern and happiness.
We were overwhelmed, as you moved through the weft of your mother
Even before you took your first breath, your eyes blinked wide open.

Now, breathe.
And when you breathe remember the source of the gift of all breathing.
When you walk, remember the source of the gift of all walking.
And when you run, remember the source of the gift of all running.
And when you laugh, remember the source of the gift of all laughter.
And when you cry, remember the source of the gift of all crying.
And when you think, remember the source of the gift of all thinking.
And when your heart is broken, remember the source of the gift of all breaking.
And when your heart is put back together, remember the source of all putting back together.

Don’t forget how you started your journey from that rainbow house,
How you traveled and will travel through the mountains and valleys
of human tests.
There are treacherous places along the way, but you can come to us.
There are lakes of tears shimmering sadly there, but you can come to us.
And valleys without horses or kindnesses, but you can come to us.
And angry, jealous gods and wayward humans who will hurt you,
but you can come to us.
You will fall, but you will get back up again, because you are one of us.

And as you travel with us remember this:

Give a drink of water to all who ask, whether they be plant, creature,
human or spirit;
May you always have clean, fresh water.

Feed your neighbors. Give kind words and assistance
to all you meet along the way--
We are all related in this place--
May you be surrounded with the helpfulness of family and good friends.

Grieve with the grieving, share joy with the joyful.
May you build a strong path with beautiful and truthful language.

Clean your room.
May you always have a home: a refuge from storm, a gathering place for comfort.

Bury what needs to be buried. Uncover the dreams of truthful warriors.

Do not harbor hurt. Laugh easily at yourself; grow kindness with others.
May you always travel lightly and well.

Praise and give thanks for each small and large thing.
Review each act and thought.
May you grow in knowledge, in compassion, in beauty.

Always within you is that day your spirit came to us
When rains came in from the Pacific to bless
They peered over the mountains in response to the singing of medicine plants
Who danced back and forth in shawls of mist
Your mother labored there, so young in earthly years.

And we who love you gather here,
Pollen blows throughout this desert house to bless
With the fragrant knowledge of your appearance here.
And horses run the land, hundreds of them for you,
And you are here to bless.

c Joy Harjo 2005

Looking for A Name in Santa Fe/Final Draft


That night I headed to the bar--
My jones was for the music, humping out the door.
No stars yet in the ache of the sky.
A rat hung in the mouth of the fat cat.
Everyone was there in each burrow of booth,
Spook and the knot of Indian school brats—
The best artists aren’t always the best dancers.
I’ll drink to that, or anything to make me laugh.
Everyone had a name; I was still looking.
Each name carried a myth, personally.
A heart could harbor the origin story; we’d know how fire happened.
There was no doubt as to the root of the matter.
Spook got his name on the street, Nez from an ancestor,
Tall with heavy rain. Other names
Could never be spoken so far from home
In a town built at the crossroads of trade. Now we traded
Despair for vision, made art, while boxcars filled with uranium
Slid up and down the highway beside the Rio Grande.
All about a Saturday night in the Senate Lounge
Which wasn’t the senate and there was no
Lounging, only drinking, dancing, and a jumpy
Edge. Maybe it was election night. We’d voted
Or skipped the nerve.
I promised Spook I’d never forget him, moved
To the next table of adventurous fools to catch up and dance,
Then she came in, blown from Oklahoma
By an evil wind churned up by burning treaties.
We’d heard the story of her killed lover,
Silkwood: the name; the monster: Kerr-McGhee. By then nearly
Every dance was done and we were all a state
Or two away from madness, from sad.
Everyone was making their moves.
I took her in as everyone took a breather
From the race. Between our bent heads we made a temple.
She told me the story as she checked the door
Sporadically. When the night was done
I offered her refuge; she fled for another town.
We only take what we can carry,
I don’t remember her name, or who won or lost
Or what version of the music compelled me to forget
So drenched that night from tough knowledge
in the vulnerable, pulsing mother field.

c Joy Harjo November 17, 2005


Post re: Vine Deloria from Dr. Tink Tinker, Osage Nation

Dear colleagues:

At six am this morning I lost a mentor and a friend who was also a friend of Iliff School of Theology. The American Indian world lost a great champion. Professor Vine Deloria, Jr., had been struggling, as many of you know, with colon surgery from more than a month ago. About two weeks ago that was complicated with an abdominal aneurysm and underwent surgery for that. He died of complication from the latter after a couple of follow-up surgeries this past week. He was a giant among American Indian intellectuals, teachers, and writers. He will be terribly missed by much more than myself.

Since this has just transpired and I have just this evening returned from Palestine, I do not know what the arrangements are. Indeed, Barbara will not be able to contact a funeral home until tomorrow, since Vine passed on a Sunday. She has asked that we give her another day or two in personal retreat before we begin to contact her with condolences, etc. Their children have already gathered around her. For those who are interested, I will pass on the information as it becomes available.

I know I do not need to rehearse the multitude of his accomplishments for most of you. I was told in 1985 when I was first hired at Iliff that it was his letter of recommendation that pushed my name to the top of the stack. He was not on my list of referees. At that point in my career, I would not have dreamed of even asking him. But Iliff had its own relationship with Vine and approached him unbeknownst to me. In a curious turn-about, the University of Colorado asked me for a letter of reference on his behalf in the process leading to their offering a position to him a few years later.

He had retired as an emeritus professor from CU only about three or four years ago. I believe he was 73 years old. I was not prepared to lose such an important discourse partner.

The American Indian world is hurt by this loss. He was not yet done writing.


Dr. Tink Tinker (Osage Nation)

Professor of American Indian Cultures and Religious Traditions

Iliff School of Theology

Memorium: Vine Deloria, Jr.

Beloved scholar, visionary, humorist, revolutionary, human being Vine Deloria, Jr. passed on from this world yesterday morning, November 13th, 2005.

There was no one else like him. This morning, the magnitude of the loss of this soul from here feels overwhelming. The immensity of his gift--remains. We still need his vision in this world crumpling about us.

Our prayers for a good journey follow you, beloved one.

November 14, 2005 Albuquerque


Mesas and Towers, Submissions Needed for new anthology

Seeking submissions for an anthology with the working title:

“Mesas and Towers: Contemporary Stories Taking Place in the Southwest”

Salina Bookshelf, Inc. is seeking original written work by American Indian writers with stories, thoughts, and/or poetry about the Southwest. Writers from the Southwest (Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Oklahoma, Southern California, Nevada) region of the United States are strongly encouraged to submit.

Being an Indian from the Southwest is still considered exotic, and for some – cliché. It is a place often revered to as sacred by Natives and non-Natives, and is often called home for many. This anthology is searching for experiences and expressions about the Southwest from Native people. What can this anthology teach people about the Southwest? Themes can cover: romance, memoir (old and new stories), politics (war-tribal/federal/state governments), humor, family, education (teaching, learning, school experiences), landscape (environmental-nature), open to new ideas. Let’s reaffirm and shock Southwest and non-Southwestern residents! Get published!

Manuscripts considered for publication:

• Genres: Fiction, (creative) Non-Fiction, Autobiography, Biography, Poetry, Nature writing.

• Submissions cannot exceed 25 pages (6500) words.

• Unpublished, original work is preferred; should a previously published or excerpts from a previously published work require a reprint fee, the fee payment is the responsibility of the author.

• Each manuscript must have a cover sheet with the author’s name, mailing address, email address, and phone number, along with a biographical statement.

• Manuscripts need be typed, double-spaced; if sent via email, send using Microsoft Word document.

• Send disk or CD-ROM formatted for Microsoft document with a hardcopy. Do not send the only copy of your manuscript; make sure you have an original copy of your work. Salina Bookshelf, Inc. is not responsible for any lost manuscripts.

• Please include a self-addressed, stamped envelope with sufficient postage if you wish to have your work returned.

• Submission deadline: December 31, 2005

Send submissions to: DeLyssa Begay
P.O. Box 3080
Chinle, Arizona 86503
Email: delyssabegay@salinabookshelf.com


San Pedro and an urgent request

Friday morning in San Pedro. I awake not knowing where I am. Yesterday I was in Albuquerque, the morning before in downtown Minneapolis, the morning before that Albuquerque, before that, Indianapolis--and so on.

I pull on my human skin, and start all over again.

So much to report, I'm not.

Headed to rehearsal and soundcheck for an event tonight at Mother Bear's Gallery
619 S. Mesa Street
San Pedro, California 90731
(310) 221-0057 phone
(310) 221-0714 (fax)

Opening prayer/blessing by Cindi Alvitre 8:00-8:15
Mankillers 8:15- 8:45
Shaunna McCovey 9:00-9:25
Joy Harjo 9:30-10:15
Arigon Starr & band 10:20-11:00

PLEASE PASS ON AN URGENT REQUEST: Will R. from Lebanon please email me, again. Didn't get a chance to talk in Mpls..

Mother Bear's, San Pedro,CA and Urgent Request

Friday morning in San Pedro. I awake not knowing where I am. Yesterday I was in Albuquerque, the morning before in downtown Minneapolis, the morning before that Albuquerque, before that, Indianapolis--and so on.

I pull on my human skin, and start all over again.

So much to report, I'm not.

Headed to rehearsal and soundcheck for an event tonight at Mother Bear's Gallery
619 S. Mesa Street
San Pedro, California 90731
(310) 221-0057 phone
(310) 221-0714 (fax)

Opening prayer/blessing by Cindi Alvitre 8:00-8:15
Mankillers 8:15- 8:45
Shaunna McCovey 9:00-9:25
Joy Harjo 9:30-10:15
Arigon Starr & band 10:20-11:00

PLEASE PASS ON AN URGENT REQUEST: Will R. from Lebanon please email me, again. Didn't get a chance to talk in Mpls..


UNM Reading

Contact: Sari Krosinsky, (505) 277-5813, michal@unm.edu
Carolyn Gonzales, (505) 277-5920, cgonzal@unm.edu

Oct. 24, 2005


This fall renowned poet, artist and musician Joy Harjo returned to teach at her alma mater, the University of New Mexico. She's back as the first Joseph M. Russo Professor of Creative Writing and the first Native American to hold an endowed chair in the university's history.

Harjo will give her first Albuquerque reading since her return to UNM on Nov. 18 at 7 p.m. in the Student Union Building Acoma room as part of the creative writing program's Poets & Writers reading series.

Full story at: http://www.unm.edu/news/OctoberReleases/05-10-24harjo.htm


October 29, 2005 Honolulu

It’s still dark here. What can’t be seen moves deftly through the courier winds.
I take count of all the events that have brought me here
To this island, to this female native body that has now turned
It’s steps toward death. We are all going somewhere, that’s true
Or we dream we are—for a week now I have been both the dreamer of my dreams--and the watcher of my dreams, as now. And I don’t
Know which is which, who is writing the song, who is singing it and who
Has decided to become the songs of these winds.
They are familiar, these winds. Called in English: trade winds. Called by
The watcher: the winds who always come during this season to delight or stun us with knowledge from the rest of the spin. Refresh us.
I want to know more than I know so I thank this lanky, weary body.
It’s the observation post in a healing field.
The outline is the definition: it’s a pre-dawn sky, a dark contemplative moon, the weave of the perfume of naupakapaka, and the wreck of unpacking.
So now, you’re being too literal. This is how you were taught to negotiate
In the schools of the conquerors.
But how can you know the songs these winds bear if you know only
How to count in English, and know not the spirits of the numbers?
How they travel.


Toronto Doings

October 19, 2005 Toronto

On the road: I arrived in Toronto Monday night. No hassle at customs. The person assigned to pick me up didn’t show, so took a car in. Flying so quickly across lands, waters and sky and earth territories can make you forget yourself. It usually takes me a few days to remember myself. The soul can travel faster than the speed of light, but traveling by plane is rough.

I stumbled into Brian Wright-McLeod’s Renegade Radio Show at 8PM a few hours later. His new book is out from the University of Arizona Press: The Encyclopedia of Native Music. (See note following.) He played “This is My Heart”, “Fear” and the “Had-It-Up-To Here Round Dance.” We visited. I caught a taxi back to my digs and was regaled by the Chinese taxi driver’s story of meeting up with an alien when he was a child in China.

Tuesday I spent in solitude: rehearsing and practicing my set list (a proposal of 18 tunes, including Desireless and Europa). To dinner with G. F. who helped set up the gig with Hugh’s Room. (See poster announcement.) I will be playing with the Shane Anthony Band Thursday night. He took me to Hugh’s Room. We heard an amazing guitar player/singer Kelly Joe Phelps. Scoped it out. Intimate. Excellent sound. People come to hear the performances. That’s good to know. The last and only time I played in a club was at Indian Market several years ago with Poetic Justice. The infamous R. R. asked us to open for him at a restaurant on Canyon Road. We were in the middle of our set when word went out that Kevin Costner was in the audience. R.R. and his band squeezed us mid-song off the tiny little stage. We had to pass our equipment out the side window. He didn’t pay us either. We eventually got the money from his manager who was embarrassed by his behavior.

We’ll see what happens here. Wednesday we rehearsed. Had to cut tunes. The sets are way too long. Decided to cut among others Desireless and Europa. I didn’t have charts—and they were the least developed. If I play them I want to make them my own, not do someone else’s arrangements. More work, beloved work. Somehow have to balance it all. Great musicians. I’m looking forward to it. Getting revved up. Have been for weeks. Was hesitant to accept the gig in the first place. G.F. said they were jazz musicians. The only other gig I had played with jazz musicians was in San Fran a few years ago. My appearance was only a set. Two wonderful musicians: I’d met with them, laid out the tunes. We need to rehearse, I said. No, they said, we don’t need to rehearse. I made sure they had my notes, chords, semi-charts and recordings of the tunes so they could be ready. On the downbeat they went off into free jazz mode and I was left standing there trying to find my way into what didn't appear to be my songs anymore. That was the worst gig I ever had. Wasn’t reimbursed for my room for one night, either. So it goes. Makes a good story.

That’s what I told myself a few years ago as I walked along the New Jersey Turnpike dragging my bags at 2A.M. one dark morning. This will make a good story. And it did. Maybe I’ll save that for next time.

Couldn't download the Hugh's Room Poster. It goes something like this:
AVR and Laughing Dog Productions Presents: JOY HARJO AND THE SHANE ANTHONY BAND, HUGH'Sroom, 2261 Dundas St. West, October 20th 8:30 PM. $15 at the door, $13 in advance.
Also check out:

The Encyclopedia of Native Music
More Than a Century of Recordings from Wax Cylinder to the Internet
Brian Wright-McLeod.
University of Arizona Press

464 pp. / 47 halftones / 7 x 10 / 2005
Paper (9780816524488) $26.95
Cloth (9780816524471) $55.00

Want the word on Buffy Sainte-Marie? Looking for the best powwow recordings? Wondering what else Jim Pepper cut besides "Witchi Tai To"? This book will answer those questions and more as it opens up the world of Native American music.
In addition to the widely heard sounds of Carlos Nakai’s flute, Native music embraces a wide range of forms: country and folk, jazz and swing, reggae and rap. Brian Wright-McLeod, producer/host of Canada’s longest-running Native radio program, has gathered the musicians and their music into this comprehensive reference, an authoritative source for biographies and discographies of hundreds of Native artists.
The Encyclopedia of Native Music recognizes the multifaceted contributions made by Native recording artists by tracing the history of their commercially released music. It provides an overview of the surprising abundance of recorded Native music while underlining its historical value.
With almost 1,800 entries spanning more than 100 years, this book leads readers from early performers of traditional songs like William Horncloud to artists of the new millennium such as Zotigh. Along the way, it includes entries for jazz and blues artists never widely acknowledged for their Native roots—Oscar Pettiford, Mildred Bailey, and Keely Smith—and traces the recording histories of contemporary performers like Rita Coolidge and Jimmy Carl Black, "the Indian of the group" in the original Mothers of Invention. It also includes film soundtracks and compilation albums that have been instrumental in bringing many artists to popular attention. In addition to music, it lists spoken-word recordings, including audio books, comedy, interviews, poetry, and more.
With this unprecedented breadth of coverage and extensively cross-referenced, The Encyclopedia of Native Music is an essential guide for enthusiasts and collectors. More than that, it is a gateway to the authentic music of North America—music of the people who have known this land from time immemorial and continue to celebrate it in sound.
Brian Wright-McLeod (Dakota-Anishnabe) began working as a music journalist in 1979. His column "Dirty Words and Thoughts about Music" appears bimonthly in News from Indian Country. His activist work in Native rights took him to the airwaves on CKLN 88.1 FM in Toronto in 1985, where he continues to produce and host Renegade Radio, a live two-hour weekly music and issues program.
See other books on Native Americans


Two Offerings

May Your Journey Be Beautiful
(Final, final version)

A little rain has blanketed the earth
Swallows fly out for breakfast from their adobe house:
Above the door of this adobe, and we fly up from sleep—
The Sun’s great house is shimmering. We smell gratitude,
And relish breakfast.
Where did these bananas come from? And who picked the coffee?
Did anyone sing to the young plants,
Pushing urgently from the creative earth?
It’s all happening at the kitchen table: we visit: talk politics.
Who’s fired; who’s hot and not, who’s left and who will return, and how
The price of gas is a perk given to the flunkies of ruin.
The train runs through the pueblo making rough music but doesn’t stop.
We joke: it’s laden with uranium, cattle and oil.
It’s going somewhere else for now. They’ll dump the scraps here later.
We get the politics, just how are we going to dance past this pain?
We needed a little rain.
Later I walk concrete in town to the tribal summit
Datura flowers are closing; someone has to stand guard with the night.
Even mystery needs to be held tenderly.
A Dineh brother stumbles up from the dark with his hands open, for rain:
Hey aren’t you the musician? He asks me for money, for a drink.
I ask him for his name.
We visit, talk politics: it’s the same.
We needed a little rain.
Rain. Rain.
May your journey be beautiful from the sky to this hungry earth.

c Joy Harjo September 2005 Albuquerque


I asked the sparrow without speaking--
As the sun graced the field behind the hotel
Breaking through sorrow.
A dog barks at a man walking to work
Carrying lunch in a paper bag
Or at the yellow cat elegantly picking her way
Along the metal fence
Placed to keep the poor out.

Another swollen whirlpool of anger
Rolls in along the Gulf
The dancers in the storm are dressed in red
And pus yellow.
They are not of this world and have
Emerged from debris
In the oil fields.
They are the metal pulse speeding up
The rhythm.
Is this a dream and is it really happening?

Lightning came to eat from a bowl
Offered to the storm.
Didn’t know whether it was a dream,
Or if it was really happening?

This morning I will open my eyes into the fourth world
And pull on a light skin
Constructed of dreams as old as the first breath of stars.
I will step down from sleep with feet
As familiar as roving deer
In a nation of pines.
I will wash my face in the sink and know I am kneeling at a river
Near home.
I will answer my phone and say hello,
I will know this is a dream
And it is really happening.

c Joy Harjo September 23, 2005 Tucson


June Jordan Tribute, in Honor of her posthumous collected poems, Directed by Desire, Copper Canyon Press, October 6, 2006, New York City

This was the morning of the fourth day of the birth of my fourth granddaughter. This is the day we offer her spirit to the sun, for acknowledgement, for a blessing. What do I offer her on this day, when I am far away, at the eastern edge of the empire?
There is no question: these are strange and difficult times. This morning as I prepared for this tribute for the warrior poet June Jordan who graced our path, I walked from my hotel to Times Square and brought June with me. There in the middle of the city we stood amazed at the 21st century totem pole made of digital flash and neon. Holding up the bottom, the root power was the New York City Police Department. NYCPD was lit up in blue and red. This power symbol continued to rise up above the city, a stack of multinational corporations, the topmost image a flashy cup of noodle soup from a Japanese manufacturer. This is it: the starting point, or should I say, the ending point?
Then I heard her say as we continued to ponder the shape and soul of this day:

"And I got to thinking about the moral meaning of memory… [A]nd what it means to forget, what it means to fail to find and preserve the connections with the dead whose lives you, or I, want or need to honor with our own." 
—June Jordan

As always June once again turned me towards what matters, and the how and why, of how we consider the sacredness of this life, take memory into our hands to literally construct a future, a city, a state, an earth we can live in together, all of us, with laughter, song, dance and some sense, some common sense.

Funny how she now fits into this Milky Way of memory as one of the shining stars of connection. We turn to her, and will continue to turn to her, just as she turned to the poets, singers, the visionaries of justice in this whole world, to guide us through—It is because of this urgent need to know the truth and the shape and music of justice that I looked for and found the poetry of June Jordan. I was looking for a voice, for someone to make sense of this heavy memory I was carrying. It was the memory of my parents, their parents, the memory of the very land itself, the memory of all of us.

Tonight I offer this granddaughter, who has joined us in the promise of this place, the words and spirit of the warrior poet June Jordan.

“Grand Army Plaza” from Passion probably isn’t June’s most-known poem, or her best. What intrigues me is the address of contradiction, and the final wisdom imparted by the journey of the poem through the territory of history, politics and sex—all at once. Part of the power of June’s overall poetic vision comes from acknowledging contradictions: the contradictions of loving, of war, the contradictions of the phrase itself: “civil war”. This is quintessential June.

Grand Army Plaza
(for Ethelbert)
Why would anybody build a monument to civil war?

The tall man and myself tonight
we will not sleep together
we may not
either one of us
in any case
the differential between friend and lover
is a problem
definitions curse
as nowadays we’re friends
we were lovers once
while overarching the fastidious the starlit
that softens space between us
is the history that bleeds
through shirt and blouse

the stain of skin on stone

But on this hard ground curved by memories
of union and disunion and of brothers dead
by the familiar hand
how do we face to face a man
a woman
and reaching still toward the kiss that will
not suffocate?

We are not survivors of a civil war

We survive our love
because we go on

June Jordan

When I remember June to my granddaughter, I will tell her what I have committed to memory: June’s laugh and her love of laughter, her love of justice, of architectures of political and economic possibilities, a love for the poets (like those assembled here*), a love of forgers of elegant sense: like Angela Davis, R. Buckminster Fuller and Malcom X, her love of intrigue, of beauty in human form and thought form, a love of music however it happens to occur: on the dance floor of earthy jazz or the amazing somewhere else.

I will tell her of the being-in-love shine that was June. I will urge this girl to be in love with the possibilities for poetry to heal and give voice to the voiceless. I will tell her to make justice in the world; to give herself over to the very elements of poetry itself and use them to imagine a vision of perfection in this place.

And finally, on the evening of this fourth day since my granddaughter’s birth into this web of memory, I will remind her that in this legacy of June: there is no easy love. This love that holds us together is not a complacent or stupid falling off a cliff love. This love is not a long-suffering or a selfish love. It is a love with boxing gloves, a love with a tongue for truth and surprise, no matter the consequences. She will absolutely need this love for her part in hammering together and imagining the fifth day, the fifth world.

c Joy Harjo October 6, 2005

(Refrain on saxophone from Don Cherry’s “Desireless”.)

* Cornelius Eady, Laura Flanders, Bob Holman, Jan Heller Levi, Yusef Komunyakaa, Donna Masini, Sara Miles, Honor Moore, Junitsu Semitsu, Shelagh Patterson, and Adrienne Rich.


The Appearance of Tests in the Sky

This morning the aroma of plants and earth after rain saturates and refreshes me. I feel like a plant who was in need of rain, and it came. Yesterday was a long day, a short night in a series of long days and short nights. I knew the owls to the right of the car Saturday night as we drove down, after the film showing from Tucson to Patagonia, were a message, a warning. I felt death. Then, almost immediately after, a bright light fell straight to the earth in front of us. It was not the elegant arc of a star or heavenly body following a circular trajectory. It was sure fall. Later, after we unpacked and discovered the new home of my beloved friend, we gathered under the stars. The last time I had been so present with the stars, moved with them, as the earth moved was at ceremonies mid-summer. The vision of them rekindled that fire. I carry it with me wherever I go.

It’s sort of like freeze-dried vision.

I have a friend who is physically present, beautiful even in her physicality. She has taken good care of her body all of her life. She shines with vitality while she walks the earth. Yet, when she dives into the ocean and swims she transforms into a water being. She has left the earth and concerns and thoughts of earthliness behind. Her earthly self pales, just as a wet rock that is shiny brilliant with color when wet is not recognizable in the same way when dry. I become myself when I am with the stars. I dive and fly. In that night sky is an exquisite loneliness. The beginning and the end live there. Eternity is described there. Our human roots may extend into the earth but it is the sky that defines our spirit.

That night, as death nudged my heart, friendly bats swooped joyously around us, happy for the companionship, and the three dog spirits who took care of my friend and the house joined us beneath the stunning sky. I hadn’t seen the Milky Way in such detail in a long time, not since the Amazon River in Peru. I accepted the warning as a gift as we quietly communed there.

Yesterday the fulfillment of the prophecy came in the sudden death of a relatively young Creek cousin who grew up in Okemah but lived in the Sacramento area most of her life. Her life made a rough path. Her last stint in prison, for something stupid and not worthy of a prison term: drugs and the need for vision in her painful world--she’d emerged with a resolve to be transformed. She was writing her story just as she was attempting to rewrite her life from a story of soap opera to one of shining purpose. We all gathered around her to sustain her, just as we gathered around her spirit last night. Strange how life is, or should I say strange how death is—it was her mother who was in the hospital struggling for healing. It was her daughter who left first.

I embrace this day for what it will bring. It appears easy to make such a statement, as easy as tapping out the words on the keyboard, but what does that really mean? Do I embrace hurricane devastation? Do I embrace the other natural and unnatural disasters that characterize these times, the foul governments, the roving evil ones who scoop up our children? I am once again reminded of the Mvskoke word, onvkckv, which is more than a word, it makes a deep image of meaning that provides the resonance of culture and is why we are still here despite the gifts of terrible tests. It’s a word that means compassion, an over arcing compassion, a compassion that provides a vision of meaning that is the size of the sky filled with stars. When we are there, in that word, in that sky, we can see the sense of it all, and keep going.


Final version, May Your Journey Be Beautiful

May Your Journey Be Beautiful

A little rain has blanketed the earth
Swallows fly out from their adobe house:
Above the door of this adobe, just as we’ve flown up from sleep—
Led by prayers and coffee.
The sun’s great house is shimmering.
We smell gratitude; it tastes of sage and dust.
We’re relish breakfast; we know times when there was none.
Where did these bananas come from? And who picked the coffee beans?
Did anyone sing to the young plants
Pushing urgently from the creative earth?
It’s all happening at the kitchen table: we visit, talk politics.
Who’s fired; who’s hot and not, who’s left and who will return, and how
The price of gas is a perk given to the flunkies of ruin.
The train runs through the pueblo making rough music but doesn’t stop.
We joke: it’s laden with uranium, cattle and oil.
It’s going somewhere else for now. They’ll dump the scraps here later.
We get the politics, just how are we going to dance past this pain?
We needed a little rain.
Later I walk concrete in town to the tribal summit
Datura flowers are closing; someone has to stand guard with the night.
Even mystery needs to be held tenderly.
A Dineh brother stumbles up from the dark with his hands open, for rain:
Hey aren’t you the musician? He asks me for money, for a drink.
I ask him for his name.
We visit, talk politics: it’s the same.
We needed a little rain.
Rain. Rain.
May your journey be beautiful from the sky to this hungry earth.

c Joy Harjo September 2005 Albuquerque


May Your Journey Be Beautiful, take two

A little rain has blanketed the earth
Swallows fly out from their adobe nest as we’ve flown up from sleep
For coffee and the news—our dreams shooting roots into the earth.
Memory has its own breath, watches over us with the vision of eagles.
Politics dominates the kitchen: who’s fired; who’s hot and not, and how
The price of gas is a perk given to the flunkies of ruin.
And where did these bananas come from?
Who picked them and did anyone sing to those young banana trees
Pushing urgently from the creative earth?
The train runs through the pueblo making rough music but doesn’t stop.
We joke: it’s laden with uranium, cattle and oil.
It’s going somewhere else for now. They’ll dump the scraps here later.
We get the politics, just how are we going to dance past this pain?
We needed a little rain.
I walk concrete in town to the tribal summit
Datura flowers are closing; someone has to stand guard with the night.
Even mystery needs to be held tenderly.
A Dineh brother stumbles up from the dark with his hands open, in the rain:
Hey aren’t you the musician? He asks me for money, for a drink.
When are we most ourselves on this journey?

c Joy Harjo 9/05


The Trouble of Not Learning to Say No

Instead of “no” she said:

When is she getting married? What if it’s raining or there’s an early snow?
What if my neighbor dies, and there’s four days?
You say you want a tent? You want to put it here?
What if the tent flies away or catches fire from the candles
You want to set up along the adobe wall and around
the perimeter?
And where will the tent come from? And who will bring it here,
set it up and take it down?
What if they have doings? And what if the neighbor dies?
I don’t want strangers walking around here, coming in and out of my house to set up
candles or the tent or a dessert table.
Who’s making all the desserts?
And you want it here? And where will you put all of it?
What if everyone comes from all over the country, even those Oklahomas and
the in-laws, the ex-laws and outlaws?
And where will everyone park, especially if the neighbor dies?
And you want to bring in the jazz singer who will sing in the tent
Surrounded by candles and all the in-laws, ex-laws and outlaws?
And what happens when the punch is spiked by every stash hidden in the dash of their trucks?
And then everyone starts dancing?
And they’re coming in and out of the house?
And what if the neighbor dies?

c Joy Harjo September 5, 2005

May Your Journey Be Beautiful

A little rain has blanketed the earth
When are we most ourselves on this journey?
The rain doesn’t ask, nor do the earth, plants and stones who drink in rain.
Politics dominates the kitchen: who’s fired; who’s hot and not, and how
The price of gas is a perk given to the flunkies of the emperor of ruin.
And where did these bananas come from?
Who picked them and did anyone sing to those young banana trees
Pushing urgently from the creative earth?
Swallows fly out from their adobe nest as we’ve flown up from sleep
For coffee and the news—our dreams shooting roots into the earth.
Memory has its own breath, watches over us with the vision made for eagles.
The train runs through the pueblo making rough music but doesn’t stop.
We joke: it’s laden with uranium, cattle and oil.
It’s going somewhere else.
We get the politics, just how are we going to dance past this pain?
We just needed a little rain.
As I walk concrete to the tribal summit
The datura flowers are closing; someone has to stand guard with the night.
Even mystery needs to be held tenderly.
A Dineh brother stumbles up from the dark with his hands open, for rain:
Hey aren’t you the musician? He asks me for money, for a drink.
When are we most ourselves on this journey?

C Joy Harjo September 2005 Albuquerque

Remember, this is a DRAFT ONLY.


I am a traveler in the last days of an American Dream.

I have watched the twin towers of commerce on the eastern shores of America destroyed by fire. I have witnessed a takeover of the presidency by an oil family who are determined to own every drop of oil in the world, and control all the lands and peoples because they are superior; they have white skin and Christianity. The presidency is allied with Christian extremists who don’t consider themselves extremists, rather Christian soldiers working to claim all this for their God, a god who gave them the right to kill Indians and gives them the right to takeover the Middle East. Christian and Muslim fundamentalists over the globe now battle for control. A giant tsunami swallowed and destroyed the coastline of Thailand, and other parts of Asia, killed thousands. Last week Hurricane Katrina destroyed the coastal south of the U.S.. New Orleans, a major city of over a million is underwater. The refugees of the tragedy are those without money or means to get out. Most are black, or poor whites. They are without food, water or shelter. We watch them die on the streets. Corpses swell and float in the water with trash and offal. We watched the explosion of the chemical plant in the ruins. Angry clouds spewed from the wound. A voice of authority on the storyteller box: the television, tells everyone that the fumes are not poisonous. We saw the smoke rear back and search the city for lungs. It takes four days for the feds to send assistance. The president is golfing.

I don’t want to hate Christianity. I loved the Book of John in those years I took myself to church. There is wisdom there, and Jesus is a medicine man. I believe he is a son of god, and so are you, and so am I. We are sons and daughter of a father/mother God. I also loved the love poems in Song of Solomon.

Yesterday I went to church with my friend at the pueblo. I haven’t been inside a church to a service in years. I decided to attend in the right spirit. I respect my friend and I respect what takes people to religion. It’s often that need to attend to spiritual matters, to find comfort and direction. Sometimes it’s fear. It’s fear that established churches and religion in our native communities. We were forced to bow down to their Christianity. We were forced to their religious schools and beliefs. Force has now turned into habit.

What I appreciated and took part in was that sense of community, of love and compassion. Prayers filled the church and hung there. Some had the force of will and light and they traveled. That’s what I took with me.

Then we went out into the plaza for the dances; these were the Indian expression of that community, that love. The difference? A single white man was the authority in the church. It was an authority invested in him by a council of other males. The only female acknowledge was Mary, as a mother of the divine. In the plaza the female earth was the primary force. Men and women were in balance for the service of love.

I am trying to remember everything. To take in every detail of wherever I am of whatever I hear because that articulation will translate into a depth of articulation of meaning in all layers of consciousness. At least that’s what I believe at the moment. I also want to sing about it but must get the last nasty sting censor out of my head, my hands, my voice, and my heart. It is gone. I thank you censor of the gift you have given me. Now, leave.

A highlight in the gift of the day of yesterday took place in the kitchen, between serving the people who came to the house to eat a feast of posole, chile stew, potato salad, bread, desserts, fruit drink, and tea. We turned up the radio and danced in the kitchen on the linoleum floor. We turned and rocked to rock oldies, disco and bluesy heartbreak. We know those songs, the articulations of them in our souls and know what those songs are born from—like us they have emerged from the depths of raw knowledge, pain, from every social and spiritual ill that has been catalogued in Indian country, all over the world. I brought out my saxophone and wailed. I played by heart, or by ear. We're still dancing.

Today is Labor Day, so I will work. Of course there is a history, a story behind the dedication of this day as a national holiday. I don't mean to belittle it. Our labor is our gift, our service. Here it goes. Sing it to: Love and Happiness by Al Green. A classic. We wouldn't have Al Green without the musical caldron of New Orleans. Wouldn't have most of our music. Mvto.


Singing for the Child Who Knew the Truth

This morning in the traffic stall on I-40 I sang. I sang for the little girl who a few years back during one of our parties at the b&b told Sue P., as she offered the flower in her hand: God lives here. This is not the god of empires, of grandeur, or the god with a hand out for money from the poor with which to build towers of gold for worship, and not the god who has deemed women unfit for equality. This is the humble god who goes about creation with absolute compassion and comprehension. I sang for her, this girl, this child who has disappeared to the north with her mother. Her mother was a dynamic young law student. Now she calls down drunk; she makes promises to bring the girl back for a visit, or starts fights because she is lonely and angry. Her daughter stands near her when she calls, her companion on the journey. They appear lost somewhere between the heart and America. I had forgotten the story until Sue P. reminded us last night. Does the child remember? And what of the child in all of us?

Incongruities and a Gift

I don’t appear to fit anywhere neatly under this sun. My life is woven with incongruities.

I am a wanderer with (almost) two homes, a sociable loner, a poet, a female saxophone player, (private) singer of Mvskoke songs when males are the singers, a jazz player who doesn’t play jazz, an Indian who doesn’t look “Indian”, a poet who occupies an endowed position at a university who doesn’t act like the typical professor poet, a speaker who is most often silent, a performer, a dreamer. Maybe that moniker fits best: a dreamer. Dreaming is the one place in which the incongruities snap into a continuous, mindful grid. The distinctions don’t matter. They all fit. I am able to fly beyond time, beyond the biting rulers of the kingdoms of human societies. My spirit occupies the spirit world without the dressings of shame, criticism and awkwardness that have characterized my emerging life. The dream world appears closer to the real world. There are no lies. Here is the source of poetry; this is where songs open their mouths to sing.

With this I walk out onto the island, after flying more than a few thousand miles to come home for an anniversary weekend. I’m barefoot, still smelling of dream residue. ”I’m home,” I say to the mynah couple who perch every morning on the telephone pole. I wonder where the cardinals are who sing around the house and yard here. One of their relatives was just assisting me in that other place. I acknowledge the mango tree so bushy and lush with a golden crop. The banana trees have a tightly woven society. They are healthy. The papaya trees should have been planted elsewhere. One thrives anyway; the other is a bit of a runt. The young coconut tree is close to my heart. A bluish lizard is doing pushups on a branch.

The sun has called me out. The earth has called me here. We are surrounded by ocean, by a cool breeze off the Ko’olau’s carrying good luck. Here in this morning light none of the incongruities matter. I am a spirit who is made of the same stuff as all of this life. I greet the morning, offer tobacco and I am greeted in return. This morning I am given an unexpected gift. The sun is bright with a blue star in the middle. The blue turns to turquoise then back to gold. These colors are woven into ribbons of energy. They spiral through time and touch the earth. The earth responds with green strands of energy; they mix. We are in communion, all of us out here in the morning--even the cat who’s been meeting her boyfriends under the house for parties has stopped in awe. We are all part of this gift.

August 27, 2005 Honolulu



In the last few weeks I’ve flown from Honolulu to LA, picked up the car in Long Beach, driven to Albuquerque via Tucson, searched Albuquerque for four to five month housing, prepared to teach classes at UNM, still trying to secure parking near my office and keep being turned down so I continue to refuse to pay for parking miles away—I will be finishing my last class in the evening, and don’t want to be the lone woman let off in a parking lot in the far reaches--, sleeping on the couch of a generous friend in the pueblo, writing copy and music for my next project, spending time with my family here, Indian market, etc etc. Life. So, if I haven’t responded to your emails, calls, please forgive.

A new poem (draft, mostly finished):


I know the dark; it is my work. Dusk is my doorway.
I’ve seen it all parade the damp cool earth within my reach.
Everything you’ve heard just might be true,
or not. Last night she kissed a beer goodbye, rolled off the highway.
I bear the thud and scrape of metal wings.
A boy blessed by prancing Indian ponies can’t see anything at all.
His girl is gone. He’ll never be famous. A gun on his hip;
It’s four a.m. the breaking hour just when he’s breaking through
The post-drug shaking. Come on and fly.
All the oil will all be gone in the snap of a wave.
All the guns, all the grief.
I blessed him as he walked the track of the disappearing moon
through a few traveler clouds; he was waving goodbye.
The cat you see is nothing but a shadow.
And neither are you, if you think about it,
Or not. A mother leaves her dreams for the cry of her feverish baby,
An old man floats effortlessly from the dark to the bright
Heaven of his people dancing in gratitude for rain.
We’ll make it through--
A crown of fledglings sleeps in their adobe nest made of river mud
On the wall of a humble house near the tracks in Isleta.
When dawn touches the trembling skin of earthliness we will emerge
From this realm of darkliness--
A rush of indigo through the white bloom of dawn,

c Joy Harjo August 22-23, 2005 Albuquerque

And will put up an Mp3 of new draft of song(s) soon.

Other notes:

Be careful of monikers. Gary Farmer and the Troublemakers brought the police to the quiet abode of the CCA in Santa Fe for an Indian Market opening event last Thursday night. It was a little rock, a little blues, tame crowd. He invited me to perform either Friday or Saturday night for Indian Market. Couldn’t make it. He’s always up to something. Will be performing with him sometime soon in Toronto. Will let you know.

Was there to help open up a showing of A Thousand Roads, along with Chris Eyre, Rick West, Jeremiah (the Navajo gang member in the film) and Scott Garen. Warm crowd. My friend from up north, St. Lawrence Island brought me a gift of whale meat. Mvto.

Last night did laundry at the pueblo. My friend and I agreed that we do not/won’t hang our underwear out for public viewing. She and the neighbors are still pondering the tiny size of a huge neighbor’s underwear.

More later.



Today left Tucson about noon for Albuquerque. Hot. Clear. The vistas on this journey are amazing. All afternoon storm clouds walk across far distances. Lightning laces the sky. Brief squalls are followed by sunlight. Near Socorro, about 90 miles south of Albuquerque thunder clouds accumulate in a beautiful, angry swarm. Mountains to the east behind this stirring monument of power are backlit by a blaze of sunlight. To the west is a black sky. I admire this tremendous building up, see the craft of eddies, the perfect and dangerous fists of winds. This power is beautiful, I comment to myself. I am an observer. I watch from a distance. The danger appears far away, an idea, a dream.

Then, we're in it. Slammed by winds that literally push the car to the edge of the highway. The downpour is harsh, brutal. I follow the red taillights of the white truck in front of me weaving through the turbulence. Then there are no visible lights, or lines in the highway. They're extinguished by the pounding of sheets of rain. I can see nothing. I am flooded by fear, adrenalin, in the midst of this power. It is an alive thing, this storm. It can kill, it can give life to the plants drinking in the rain or uproot them. It will rejuvenate the air we are breathing.

Maybe there is no such thing as objectivity. Or objectivity is limited as it roams around on the mental plane, making suppositions and creating exact measures of physical force and dimension, of matter.

And there's more. I'm crashing for the evening in a warm hotel room in Albuquerque. It's raining here, and a man on the northeast side was struck by lightning.

(First draft of a note)


Sunday in Honolulu

Sunday in Honolulu:
Greeted the sun, the mango tree, banana trees,butler bird, doves, mynah birds.
Breakfast of hash browns, biscuits, scrambled eggs, mango and blueberries, iced tea. Yum.
Rewrote a dream for a lit mag's call for dream material."The Fire and the Gatekeeper".
Worked up a syllabus.
Ordered some short blue boots with stars. School shoes.
Practiced saxophone: scales II V I's, played along with Prince's Musicology for a little funk session, the rehearsed some of my own tunes--
Practiced guitar. Grace. And working through a classical guitar book.
40 minutes on bike.
Read an old New Yorker in my stack of back issues. Am prompted by a review to read English writer Hilary Mantel's new novel, Beyond Black. The main character's spirit guide isn't called Oz or Running Deer, she says, but Morris. And he's a grizzled old criminal whose fly is often undone. While she is leading her psychic meetings, he is out in the parking lot, opening car doors, loosening the straps on baby seats...
Cooked up sofkey: flint corn and lye
Visit with J. Quapaw and his wife. He's Creek from home. The sofkey for him, Tiger and me.
Cleaned up quickly before Quapaw came.
Washed dishes.
Washed dishes again.
Visited with Mike who came and loaded up L's canoe for sale to try it out. He bought it.
Talked to my granddaughter and son in WI, and my daughter in NM.
Meant to call Tiger. Will take him sofkey tomorrow. He gets his new leg this week.
Practiced new song. Round dance version of Remember.
This isn't in order.
Responded to emails.
Looked for Alex Kuo. Does anyone know where he is?
Started packing.
And more.


Reprinted by permission of Allison Hedge Coke. Excellent letter.

military funds to Colombia

Sen. Tim Johnson

July 24, 2005

Dear Senator Johnson,

As a recent visitor to Medellin on a peace mission, I must write to you on the behalf of my Indigenous friends there. Being from South Dakota, you know fully well the impact of hostile takeovers on tribal people. It happened in the US a hundred years and longer ago and is currently happening in Colombia under each group warring there. The Indigenous people have claimed neutrality and are remaining peaceful. Yet, hundreds of thousands have been slaughtered rather than protected by the rest of the world funding this war from all angles. What is at stake is actually the landbase of the Indigenous peoples. You must look at this situation closely and do all you can to rectify the misinformation going out to Americans regarding this and to protect the lives of the Indigenous people there struggling to survive on their homelands under the gun of people with other agendas.

Like the American Revolution here, the land that was lost (in the 1770s), as you know, was actually Indigenous homelands, and the people burned out and flooded out by the generals were Native people in their own homes. On my father's side, our tribe lost 88 villages during the revolution and it is estimated that perhaps 3/4 of our people were killed in that and previous warring that was not ours, was not caused by us, and whereas actually then technically guerrilla Americans (mostly British subjects before the day they claimed otherwise) wanted out of their own regime that taxed them and wanted to expand themselves onto Native lands.

Though, unfortunately, it is often taught much differently in school and media, this was truly the case at hand and is actually very obvious once you stop to look at the actuality of the situation.

As you know, I am a constituent. I am heartedly calling upon you regarding recent Colombia legislation on the foreign operations appropriations bill. Please, in the future, support new policy toward Colombia, and vote YES on any amendments that cut military aid to Colombia, or that cut military aid and transfer it to social aid. Plan Colombia is supposed to end this year, and given its failures, I believe it should be replaced by a policy that works. Drug crop fumigation in Colombia has not helped lessen the price or availability of drugs on U.S. streets, and direct human rights violations by the Colombian military have increased since U.S. aid began in 2000. We need a major shift away from fumigation and military aid, and toward alternative development programs and aid to displaced families. I would like you to work diligently to change this policy, and to prioritize social assistance instead of military aid.

The fumigation is causing health hazards to the Indigenous people. I was sprayed in the fields as a child working in agriculture (in the US) and ended up with 15 years of carcinoma probably directly related years later. This is a sample of what is present danger with the massive Agent Green (Round-Up) spraying on Indigenous peoples, their lands and their foods. It is doing nothing to curb drug use or abuse in the US and people are dying and gaining health woes.

I have friends, who are very peaceful Native artists and poets there who are in certain danger in their own homes and it breaks my heart. Please as a leader from a state with so many Native constituents, please work to save what is left of the Native people and lands in Colombia and introduce legislation that will guarantee them lands and livelihood. You, of all the people in office, should have bearings on the state of the Native people in the Americas. In South America, there is still time to preserve many of the cultures which are intact still and not duplicate the extent of damage to Indigenous America as a result.

In the strength of unity through peace,

Allison Hedge Coke

Sious Falls , SD


Report from an Island at the Edge of the Regime

Night fall in Honolulu. I'm a night person, a morning person, and have difficulty with the middles of things.

Following is an articled emailed to me by Indian Country Today:

Ancient prophecy is modern reality

© Indian Country Today July 28, 2005. All Rights Reserved
Posted: July 28, 2005
by: Editors Report / Indian Country Today

Christians don't have a monopoly on prophecies that tell of an ''end of times'' or an end of an ''era.'' Many tribal nations, significantly the Hopi and the Haudenosaunee, but including many others such as Cree and Lakota in the North and Maya, Lokono and Maquiritari in the South, have prophecies within their spiritual traditions that describe an ''end of times,'' an era very similar to our present times and depicting or describing prophetic signs apparent to those who watch for such things. The signs, according to each culture and prophecy, reveal that major changes are afoot.

The Christian tradition is compelling in that it dictates a clear scenario for believers that accepts, on faith, the belief in the resurrection of Jesus' physical body from death itself. The resurrection myth propels to an end-tale with the return of the living Jesus. This ''Second Coming'' is to gather those who had believed in him as the only way to salvation. These would, in fact, be resurrected and ascended into heaven to live in eternal grace with their Lord. Everyone else, unfortunately, ends up in hell for torture and pain throughout eternity.

There are those who say that the Second Coming, which is also described as ''the Rapture,'' is already guiding American foreign policy. Certainly, it appears that the true believers within the present circle of U.S. policy makers and of many media outlets are steering toward connecting the worldly events in their various fields and departments to the sign of the coming Rapture. No doubt, many fully expect to be among those who board the celestial ship to life eternal. These analysts, mostly but not exclusively on Christian radio and television shows, conjecture for millions of Americans that propelling Israel as a major super military power in the Middle East and invading and occupying a whole country - Iraq - at the ''cradle of civilization,'' portends the acceleration of the struggle between ''good and evil,'' expectedly toward Armageddon, the final mother of all battles, after which comes the return of the living body of Jesus Christ.

Perhaps this is so, or perhaps it overstates the Christian case; but no one can deny we live in the age of terrific religious fervor, when more and more of humanity attaches itself to essential or elemental stories that are the basis of whole religions, whose dictates and strictures can often clash and expand into dangerous areas - including that of self-fulfilling prophecy. We are also in an era when the resources of the Earth that have fueled and supported industrial lifestyles are quickly diminishing. This is where some of the Indian prophecies come in.

John Mohawk, Seneca historian and Indian Country Today columnist, recalled not long ago the mutual visits by Hopi and Haudenosaunee traditionalists as early as 1948, where a prophetic tradition, popularly referred to as ''the purification,'' was exchanged. This was way before the ecology movement, before ''New Age'' and even before the ''energy crisis.'' The elder Indian spiritualists from the Hopi of that time not only had prophecies of meeting ''Indians from the East,'' they actually fulfilled their own tradition and traveled east to meet and tell the Haudenosaunee about it. The sincere exchange of views that followed saw these and other Native peoples review and renew their prophetic traditions and this dialogue, largely unrecorded, has gone on for more than a half a century after the 1948 visit.

Unlike the faith-based Christian liturgy, what the Hopi tradition warned about involved patterns of human activity on Mother Earth that had profound and predictable consequences. They expressed, as have most Indian traditionalists to this day, that the greed for material possessions and technological gadgetry had the potential to severely affect the systems of the earth and that this was in fact happening within Western civilization, which they were witnessing, and that they had been told they should warn all peoples about the impending changes and disasters.

No one listened then and too few are listening now, as the ancient Indian warning is diluted by modern economic and political concerns, but the message does resonate with observers of our current energy crisis who tell us of major and very difficult changes ahead for most of humanity.

The American ''way of life'' predicated on the wanton consumption of cheap oil is in its last throes. Quantitative reality points to severe developing problems with industrial civilization and its dependent systems. We are entering what a well-researched book recently excerpted in Rolling Stone magazine terms the ''end of the cheap-fossil-fuel era.'' (''The Long Emergency'' by James Howard Kunstler, Rolling Stone, March 24, 2005.)

The term ''global oil-production peak'' is very important in this context. This is the ''turning point,'' when global production will generate ''the most oil it will ever produce in a given year,'' after which annual production can only decline. U.S. oil production peaked in 1970 at 11 million barrels per day. Currently some 20 million barrels a day are consumed just in the United States, which produces 5 million and imports the rest.

There is now developing consensus that the global oil-production peak, expected by 2010, is happening now - in 2005. The remaining half of the world's oil deposits is in large measure unextractable; that which is extractable is increasingly difficult and costly to extract, of poorer quality and located mostly in places hostile to the United States. The industrial world's principal source of energy, which underwrites everything about the international and particularly the industrial economies - from transportation to heat to food to the hugely integrated range of most other production - is drying up fast.

The new energy crisis is permanent. The cheap energy, cheap food and cheap living produced by cheap oil has no detectable replacement that can sustain the current industrial lifestyle. And not only oil, but natural gas is also declining (by five percent a year), with steeper declines expected. Most power plants built after 1980 and half the homes in America run on gas. Nuclear energy, touted by some once again, comes from plants such as Three Mile Island and has many serious unsolved problems, in long-term radioactivity control and waste storage, which generate intense opposition in the population.

It gets worse: clean water is also diminishing fast. Already, globally, more than a billion people don't have safe drinking water. About 15 million children under the age of 5 die miserably each year from drinking polluted water. (See: ''With a Push From the U.N., Water Reveals Its Secrets,'' William J. Broad, The New York Times, July 26, 2005.)

The news on declining oil and water, and on costly extreme weather disasters, is sobering. The convergence of forces now seen as permanent reveals trends that will severely change life as we know it, limiting Western technological society and altering the familiar economics and social planning of the 20th century.

Large-scale social change could help. But while these threats compound, the American media and major news channels grow shrill while losing the ability to tell schlock from substantive and useful information. Socially asleep at the wheel and led by the easy profits of ''reality'' shows, infotainment of bizarre cases and celebrity gawking, most basic reporting is replaced by hackneyed pundits repeating their spin on channel after channel. Public trust and doctrines of fairness are now hostage to profit incentives. No major idea or power in the current society is likely to be challenged, investigated and analyzed for fear of losing its corporate or governmental support.

Breaking through this wall of disregard for natural reality was the intent of the elders who came out of their remote communities to tell their prophecies and perceptions in the mid-20th century. Because they did not call for miracles over life and death, because they did not request we ''act on faith,'' their admonitions merit attention more than ever today: they said that the new way of using up the earth will have dire consequences; indeed, the new reality is of a world where the promise of industrial progress is much reduced.

The elder Indians spoke of food self-sufficiency and of fighting tenaciously for your lands as the basis of tribal survival. They urged the younger generation to stay close to the earth, aware of the sources of good water and land for growing useful plants and animals as the ''real economy.'' They spoke of staying physically active and the people striving to work together in harmony. Even back then, they warned the leaders to prepare for a future of great uncertainty. ''Prepare from the ground up,'' they said. ''Community by community and family by family, learn to do these things for yourselves.''

Given the callous disregard for these life-threatening issues by America's current political and media leadership, the elders' advice - to do for ourselves and to prepare to meet all conditions - might be as good as we are likely to get.

By Suzan Harjo, Reprinted by permission of Indian Country Today and Suzan Harjo

Just rewrote the following poem. Kind of works with the article. And today was the disturbing news that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Kamehameha School, a school for native Hawaiians is racist in its admissions policy as a Hawaiians-only school. Speaking of racist...who's racist here?

Report from an Island at the Edge of the Regime

There are children sleeping
And the sky aches with dark
As it prepares to give birth to light.
--A chuk chuk of gecko song--
And a young tradewind follows another
Through the window
Down the hill in Chinatown
A sailor sodden with fight and blood
Zips up from a piss.
He curses everything he stumbles against
In the neon ruins.
One god breaks against another.
And so it is.

C Joy Harjo November 11-2004 Honolulu (Rewrite 8/3/05)



Where there is one singing bird though there may be twenty asleep in the mango tree
Where there is sleek, urgent promise in your umber eyes
Where there is a room without clocks
Where there is a country without boasting or guns
Where there is enough rice
Where there is a dress of plumeria and no need for shoes
Where there is dawn.
There you are.

c Joy Harjo July 21, 2005 Honolulu


There are more Creeks in California than in Oklahoma!

JULY 23, 2005

12 NOON TO 6 P.M.
Hosted by the California Muscogee (Creek) Association

Our Guests are
Principal Chief AD Ellis
Second Chief Alfred Berryhill
National Council Members
Muscogee Judge Pat Moore
Chief of Staff Mike Flud
Executive Director Claude Sumner
The Higher Education Department
Citizenship Office Roberta Haney
The Election Office
Cultural Advisor Timmy Thompson
Community Services Director Della Cherry
And many others.
This is an excellent opportunity to gather information from
Directors of each department.

This is a Pot-Luck Event.
Please bring your lawn chairs and a good attitude.

See you there!

I will see you there if I can catch a stand by ATA flight.


The Creek Nation Day Care Staff and Children during my last visit home, July 7, 2005, Tulsa.

Triplopia, Mars, Grief, and General Dancing Around

It's appropriate I suppose that I'm included in the "Noise" Issue of Triplopia!

And Mars will either get you up and moving or destroy.

Working on my noise out here on the island: Yes, it's beautiful and I can see the Pacific from here. I've written all morning, transacted business, called my mother, emailed, had a phone conference and now hooking up my mic to record some station ID's, practice sax and work on music before I head out to buy a rubber snake for a presentation I'm doing for kindergarteners tomorrow, and to go to paddling practice. Sounds efficient, doesn't it? I blew most of yesterday, taken down by grief. Went to the gym and lifted and biked to blow off the monster, finished a poem or at least a draft (following) and rewrote part of an interview. (I have a hard time being asked direct questions. I waffle around in a chaotic manner. Writing puts things in order.) Rabbit, for those who don't know, is the trickster being, who leapt forth at creation.

O little earthquake of the heart
One night of excessive tears and the house our family built slides to the sea
Either we gather the night sheets about us and make a sail
Or we go down to our knees and gather the sticks and broken dishes
And stack it up again, a humble roof to greet the sky.
It might happen again, yes: the corn, the stones, the eagle.
The heart shake and the earth fall.
Or the sea will rise up as a fist and slam the burning mountain, yes.
One compassionate being will supplant another.
An angry beast will tear it all away.
So what does it matter,
Rabbit asks, as Rabbit dances over the rift
Between white peace and a red and wrathful earth.
Cry then, or go get a hammer and a hand of nails.

c Joy Harjo July 18, 2005 Honolulu


Triplopia: Volume IV, Issue 3: Noise

In physics, it is a disturbance that obscures the
clarity of a signal; in computer science, it is
meaningless data; to our ears, it is a sound of any
kind, from music to the faint sound of breath, from
static to oral poetry, from rhythm to tone, and all
the sounds in between -- this summer, Triplopia
invites you to listen closely as we take on Noise.

This issue, Triplopia Spotlights award-winning poet,
musician and screenwriter, Joy Harjo. Join us as we
discuss the fusion of oral and written poetry, the
responsibility of the poet, and the way music
penetrates us all.

Enjoy more from Joy Harjo in our Feature section,
where she explores American Indian mythology with her
prose poem, "The Crow and the Snake." Also in
features, Noman Ball discusses poetic voice in his
essay, "Authentic Voice: A Catalog of Discontents,"
and the gifted Brian F. Laule explores a loss of the
senses in his short story, "The Eyes that Jewel Our

In the Poets section, discover the various ways in
which poets utilize sound as we welcome original and
innovative poetry from Arlene Ang, David Benson, John
Bryan, Robert Klein Engler, Laurie Mazzaferro, Damon
McLaughlin, Barbara Taylor, and Andrena Zawinski.

In Triplopia's Reviews, Tania Van Schalkywk delves
into both the beauty and the horror of noise as she
interviews several successful writers in this issue's
TripPicks. Uncle Flatboot evaluates poetry websites
which contain "unexpected brilliance" -- read along as
Tryst, The Alsop Review, and Slow Trains Literary
Journal fall under the watchful gaze of Paul Sonntag.
And, Triplopia editor Gene Justice analyzes the
relationship of audience and text throughout the
poetry of Catherine Daly and Bobbie Lurie.

Featured artwork includes visual noise from the lenses
of Ola Badola, Jeff Crouch, Stephen Gibson, Jamie Gil,
Manolis Kanakis, Lucretious, Carlos Paes and Julie

Finally, the Yawp's neighbor has almost driven him to
sustain his brain in a vat of beer. Find out why in
this edition's Barbaric Yawp.

Sizzle! The theme of the autumn edition of Triplopia
is "Heat." Show us a little smoke and fire by
submitting artwork, prose and poetry by September 1st!
See current issue for guidelines (
http://www.triplopia.org ).

--Gene Justice and Tara A. Eliott
Editors of Triplopia

The Red Planet is about to be spectacular!

This month and next, Earth is catching up with Mars in an encounter that
will culminate in the closest approach between the two planets in
recorded history. The next time Mars may come this close is
in 2287. Due to the way Jupiter's gravity tugs on
Mars and perturbs its orbit, astronomers can only be
certain that Mars has not come this close to Earth
in the Last 5,000 years, but it may be as long as
60,000 years before it happens again.

The encounter will culminate on August 27th when
Mars comes to within 34,649,589 miles of Earth and
will be (next to the moon) the brightest object in
the night sky. It will attain a magnitude of -2.9
and will appear 25.11 arc seconds wide. At a modest
75-power magnification



Sorry for the repeated Earthquake post. Strange, but can't delete the extras. The effect like an earthquake.


This morning crossing Ke'ehi Lagoon Park I heard the earth speak. It was a cry, an ache, a sweeping sound, huge, larger than human sound spectrum. It stops me for a moment in my journey across the field from the regatta to the toilet. I think that I am imagining it, then I know I'm not imagining it as I feel the arc of resonance. The five o'clock news reports an earthquake on the Big Island about that time. Then it makes sense.

There have been several earthquakes on the Big Island, it seems. "No connection between them", cites the reporter. He's quoting scientific sources.



Seven A.M. in Albuquerque, New Mexico

It's almost seven a.m. Albuquerque time. Waiting for the shower then will pack up my sister's van, check out and then begin the drive to Oklahoma with everyone else who will be traveling during the highest traveling weekend in the history of the U.S.. How do "they" know these things? Last night the room was filled with children and birthday cake. My granddaughter Desiray turned nine years old. We came back to the room for cake and gifts after dinner at Sadies, one of the best local Mexican restaurants. This morning there's only the hum of the air conditioner. Quiet, relative. I still find my spirit lingering in Peru, along the Amazon, in the Sacred Valley. And some of it is here. When I drive these streets I am driving memory. Over there I'm pushing a stroller filled with laundry, over there I jumped out of Geary's VW several of us were packed in after leaving the bar and took off running. I played several times in this hotel with Poetic Justice at different conferences. This morning there's relative peace. I'm working on a new song, looking for the right chords on the guitar. This one started with the melody. Called "Fly Away". I am closer to death than I've ever been, though may be death has always been riding my shoulder. My friend M.C. left us last Tuesday. She told me to pray for her release when I asked her what I could do for her the week before: me calling from Hawaii, her body shutting down in Studio City, CA. I was told her spirit filled the room when she lifted out of the wreck of her body. She was ecstatic, then she left. I will miss talking planetary geometry with her. In my dreams I applied for medical school, was writing a letter to admissions as to why I should be admitted with my background. A female doctor asks me to sew up her hand because it needs to be done now. She has no painkiller. I say yes. A tendon is loose, flying. I thread the needle. This was one of my early dreams, why I went to college. This is the road. All of it.


Amazon Indian tribe threatened

Tuesday, May 17, 2005 Posted: 0108 GMT (0908 HKT)

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) -- An Amazon Indian tribe isolated from
modern Brazil by hundreds of miles of rain forest faces annihilation by
loggers if nothing is done to protect them, an Indian rights group
warned Monday.

The Indian rights group Survival International said logging companies
were cutting down the forest in the Rio Pardo area, about 1,400 miles
northwest of Rio de Janeiro, despite repeated reports that there were
isolated Indians in the region.

"These people are on a knife's edge. If something isn't done really
urgently, they will be consigned to history," Fiona Watson, a campaign
coordinator for the Indian rights group Survival International, said by
telephone from London.

Anthropologists with Brazil's Federal Indian Bureau first detected the
tribe in 1998 in a densely jungled area of Mato Grosso state, near its
northern border with Amazonas state.

The bureau considers the Indians "uncontacted" because anthropologists
have not reached the tribe, although its members may have had some type
of contact -- perhaps violent -- with wildcat miners and loggers in the

In 2001, the bureau banned outsiders from entering 410,186 acres of the
rain forest to allow anthropologists to contact the tribe and demarcate
a reservation. But the protection efforts were curtailed this March when

a federal judge granted an appeal by the Sulmap Sul Amazonia logging
company that the decree protecting the area would cause the company
irreversible damages.

"The judge's order opened this area to development and forbids the
presence of the Federal Indian Bureau. This is like putting a gun in the

loggers' hands to kill Indians," said Sydney Possuelo, head of the
bureau's Isolated Indians unit.

Little is known about the Rio Pardo Indians except that they probably
are hunter-gathers and were forced to abandon their villages in a hurry.

"When we found the villages it looked like a tsunami had hit," said
Possuelo. "No Indians abandon their hammocks or their arrows unless they

are being harassed."

Possuelo said efforts to contact the Indians were complicated because
they appeared to have been the victims of attacks by loggers.

"If, on the one hand, we are trying to protect them, there are others
who are trying to make them run. They don't know who is who," Possuelo

About 700,000 Indians live in Brazil, mostly in the Amazon region. About

400,000 of them live on reservations where they try to maintain their
traditional culture, language and lifestyle.

Indians have been always pushed deeper into the jungle by settlers. The
bureau has said in the past that it has learned from other Indians of a
few uncontacted tribes in the western Amazon state, where the region's
jungle is thickest.

A Monk's Tale, Sam Hamill, by permission

TheVirginia Quarterly Review, Spring 2005

A Monk's Tale
Sam Hamill

We begin to die the day we are silent about things that matter.
--M. L. King, Jr.

When I extracted the envelope from my post office box that crisp, clear January morning, I knew immediately what it was. The cream-colored square envelope had gold capital letters in the upper left-hand corner: THE WHITE HOUSE. I knew Laura Bush had sponsored several evenings with writers in her promotion of literacy. Clearly, there was going to be a poetry event, and equally clearly, I had been placed on the list. There could be no other possibilities. I didn't open it. I put it with other mail and returned to Copper Canyon Press, where I was in the midst of printing a broadside on my platen press. I felt intense stress, not joy. There was no way I could accept an invitation to George Bush's White House. I felt a little nauseous as I realized the situation into which I had been thrust. I couldn't simply act on my own, by my own conscience, because my actions would reflect, like it or not, fair or not, on Copper Canyon Press. I was going to have to look deeply into my own conscience and the practices of a lifetime as a socially engaged poet.

The night before, I had been exploring "shock and awe" on the Internet, reading various stories about Bush's plans to devastate Iraq with an intense and intensifying missile barrage, a weak nation of beleaguered people who had no relationship to the al Qaeda attack on the U.S. When I completed my four-year enlistment in the Marine Corps, I exited as a Conscientious Objector. I was born during WW II, grew up during Korea and the McCarthy era, and came of age under Kennedy while serving for a couple of years in Japan. My first public poetry readings were under the auspices of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Poets Against the War (in Vietnam), and part of my campaigning for Eugene McCarthy in 1968. I ran for California State Assembly that year as a socialist and devoted a lot of time to campaigning for McCarthy.

I had undergone infantry training at Camp Pendleton in Southern California, home of Camp Smedley D. Butler, named after the Marine Corps major general who won two Medals of Honor. This is what the good general had to say about serving his country: "I've spent 33 years being a high-class muscle man for big business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism. . . . I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1909-12. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American Oil interests in 1914. I helped in the rape of half a dozen Central American Republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I was rewarded by honors, medals, promotions." And Henry Kissinger has a Nobel Peace Prize that sticks in the craw of every democratic Chilean.

For forty years I'd been a socially engaged antiwar poet. I was engaged in the civil rights campaigns of the sixties, supported feminist issues of the seventies, and had, in fact, been a devoted nonviolent revolutionary my entire adult life. And now I was being invited to the White House, where plans were well under way to sell our nation a pack of lies and fears, and an innocent nation-the very cradle of civilization-would be destroyed, our Constitution undermined, and all the worldwide sympathy and compassion extended toward us since the September 11 attack would evaporate. Several human rights organizations already claimed that a million Iraqis had died for lack of necessities under the embargo; hundreds of thousands more could die in an American shock-and-awe attack.

For an hour or so, I worked in the print room, mind reeling. But I couldn't focus. Finally, I opened the envelope. I was invited by Laura Bush to a symposium on "Poetry and the American Voice" (my emphasis). That "the" kind of caught my eye. There was no mention of which poets would be featured, only that the symposium would be held on February 12, 2003, three weeks away. I closed up shop and went home. I e-mailed the Copper Canyon Press board of directors. Most responded by prompting me to go. (Few of those people knew me at all well.) I knew in my heart that I could not in all conscience go play nice with people who sponsor murder-and firing missiles at cities is murder, period.

I felt my country was about to embark on a road to international disaster. I thought about poets I admired who'd found the courage to be Conscientious Objectors during World War II, people like Kenneth Rexroth, Bill Stafford, William Everson, Robert Lowell. How much venom they must have withstood for being true to their consciences. Mind still reeling, I went out to my library and pulled out Whitman-always, to my mind, "the most American poet." The Whitman who "contains multitudes." I kept thinking, oddly, about "the" American voice. I'd been saying for years that the multitudinous, broadly diverse voices of poetry in the U.S. had made this the richest time for poetry since the T'ang dynasty. Any poet who isn't in possession of a distinct voice isn't, frankly, much of a poet. There's not yet one American English language, but a tree of language with many beautiful branches-dialects, folk terminology, foreign words and phrases constantly enriching our tongue.

I've always admired Whitman's profound optimism. I don't share it, but I admire it. It served him well. But how far is our nation from the democratic vistas Whitman dreamed for us? We have the power to blow up the world many times over, and yet we are clearly incapable of running an election in which votes get properly counted. We are incapable of running an election that is not bought and paid for by corporate conglomerates that reduce grave issues to petulant sound bites, catch phrases, and outright lies. After writing some deeply moving poems in honor of the military, Whitman later wrote:

Well, we certainly have "Industry's campaigns," and armies of "Engineering" will doubtless prosper as they begin to rebuild a devastated country. We do not live in Whitman's Utopia. We live in a time in which the odor of halfburnt corpses cannot shame us, the blood of our missiles does not stain us, in which even the caskets of those who serve their country are concealed. The Gulf War was a television event far removed from most Americans. Our "hell unpent" takes up about three minutes of the evening news. We have exactly the triangulated marriage of military-corporation-and-state that Dwight Eisenhower saw as a greater threat to the U.S. than communism as he left office in 1960.

That evening my wife, Gray Foster, and I sat down with a bottle of wine, and we stewed. I revisited my path to engaged pacifism, from an angry, violent, self-destructive, and often homeless teenager, through the Marine Corps, and into college, and on through adulthood-my thirties, forties, fifties-turning ever more deeply to the teachings of Buddhism, the practice of Zen, and my convictions about poetry. I remembered my first Zen teacher, a tiny Okinawan monk, who told me, "You must live as though you were already dead." That became perhaps the central koan of my life. It certainly played an important role during the twenty-odd years I lived in poverty, building Copper Canyon Press with Tree Swenson and learning book typography, letterpress printing, and studying/translating Chinese and Japanese classics . . . and building my home with my own hands. Ahhh. Living beside a woodstove, studying Tu Fu by kerosene lamp. It's romantic for about a week, then it's a way of life. The poets I translated taught me how to live; they showed me the Way of Poetry. I had taken a bodhisattva vow to follow the practice of Zen and the Way of Poetry, and I had been true to that vow for more than thirty years.

I always liked Whitman for wanting us to read him in the bathtub, which is to say, naked. Naked is vulnerable. I liked him for asking us to touch him, to feel his pulse. And his vow to "never desert you" is really a vow to all humanity, not merely an expression of nationalism.

As much as I love my country-and I love it dearly-I've never been a conventional patriot. I do not cherish a flag, nor do I take pledges of allegiance that might one day conflict with my bodhisattva vow. Kannon (Kuan Yin in Chinese) is the Bodhisattva of Compassion, and her name means "Shewho-perceives-the-cries-of-the-world." I want to hear those voices and hear them clearly. I listen. When my love of country conflicts with the profound suffering and murder we impose on humanity, I must take my stand with suffering humanity. But I do especially love the U.S. Constitution and its roots of democracy that once flourished and now are imperiled by empire-builders and religious fanatics.

Ed Abby loved that poem! The Patriot Act is one of the most insidious documents in our history, and the congressional representatives who turned over to Bush their constitutional responsibilities to mandate for or against war should be impeached or shamed into resignation. Only Congress shall have the right to declare war. The 1st, 4th, and 14th Amendments were (and are) being undermined by bloodless corporate honchos like Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice, and we now have an attorney general who is an apologist for torture. We have become a corporate state.

Mussolini said that the perfection of fascism would be found in the marriage of the corporation and the state. Government by Halliburton? Oil companies writing environmental policy? "Clean Air" acts that contribute to the toxicity of our environment, and "clean water" policies that lead directly to rivers full of dead fish and ocean fish we cannot eat because of mercury levels? Mussolini would be proud of George W. Bush. Ninety percent of the mass media in the U.S. is in the hands of a handful of international conglomerates. The American media were following Bush's party line and repeating his lies unquestioningly. Tax cuts for the supremely wealthy and millions of children "left behind"-this is a corporate state. We are the only industrialized nation in the world without a national health-care system; we pay more and get less. Europeans look at a huge, wealthy nation that executes children and they wonder what's wrong with us. How can we be so uncivilized? The world looks at the havoc we cause abroad while we gaze admiringly at our own reflection in a mirror.

Gray and I talked for hours. We called our old friends Hayden Carruth and William Merwin. Hayden had declined an invitation to the Clinton White House, we knew, and we wondered what kind of fallout or flak he'd received. We discussed every conceivable way to deal with the problem, even including the idea of my going, just to listen to what fellow poets and Copper Canyon board members would suggest. But I knew, I just knew I could not go. I didn't even want to go picket. I just wanted to send them some poetry and make a statement against war. I believed then that this was the most dangerous administration in American history, and I believe that now.

My wife and I spent a mostly sleepless night. But I rose the next morning with a clear mind. This is the letter I wrote about 5 a.m.:

January 19, 2003

Dear Friends and Fellow Poets:

When I picked up my mail and saw the letter marked "The White House," I felt no joy. Rather I was overcome by a kind of nausea as I read the card enclosed:

Only the day before I had read a lengthy report on George Bush's proposed "Shock and Awe" attack on Iraq, calling for saturation bombing that would be like the firebombing of Dresden or Tokyo, killing countless innocent civilians. Nor has he ruled out nuclear weapons.

I believe the only legitimate response to such a morally bankrupt and unconscionable idea is to reconstitute a Poets Against the War movement like the one organized to speak out against the war in Vietnam.

I am asking every poet to speak up for the conscience of our country and lend his or her name to our petition against this war, and to make February 12 a day of Poetry Against the War. We will compile an anthology of protest to be presented to the White House on that afternoon.

Please submit your name and a poem or statement of conscience to:

On line by January 31. Send submissions between Jan. 31 and Feb. 10.

There is little time to organize and compile. I urge you to pass along this letter to any poets you know. Please join me in making February 12 a day when the White House can truly hear the voices of American poets.

Sam Hamill

I sent my letter to about forty poets. I did not alert media or anyone else other than the Copper Canyon Press staff and board of directors. We truly expected no more than a few hundred poems. Gray and our friend Nancy Giebink volunteered to download and format the poems as they came in. The initial letter gave Nancy's e-mail address for submissions. Within hours, she was utterly overwhelmed.

The next morning, I called Mrs. Bush's secretary to get details of the symposium and to let her know that I would not be attending but would send along a packet of poems representing a broad spectrum of American voices, plural. Alas, I got a recording announcing the symposium had been "postponed." (Two years later, the official White House position is: "postponed.") I learned only from fellow invited poets that the symposium would discuss Dickinson, Whitman, and Langston Hughes. This, frankly, offended me. For this White House to try to co-opt two, possibly three, homosexual poets, offended me; for them to try to use three of our most political poets offended me. The FBI and CIA followed Langston around for twenty years. Whitman would have despised these people, I am certain, because they are deeply, disturbingly undemocratic.

Whitman speaks of "the tushes of power" while sitting in contemplation like a Buddha. To take the way of poetry is to stake everything on the conviction that words are more powerful than weapons. The first task of the poet, for me at least, is to become a citizen of the world. The Arab poet is my sister, my brother, my grandmother I never knew. Those who must be shrouded by the burka, those who choose the burka, and those who reject the burka are my sisters. I believe each of them has something important to teach me. The path of poetry, the path of compassion, is dangerous at every turn. "Love thine enemy as thy self."

Had we behaved as Whitman's democracy after the September 11 attack, we would have expressed strong convictions about our faith in our Constitution rather than subverting it; we would have asked where such virulent antiAmerican sentiment was born and what fostered it-as if we did not know. The United States has bombed more than forty countries since the end of WW II. We have empowered tyrants (including Saddam Hussein) and dictators when we could profit from it. Pinochet was brought to power by Henry Kissinger (with aid from Bush Sr.); Noriega is a product of the CIA. How many years did the people of the Philippines suffer under a U.S.-backed Ferdinand Marcos? It's a long, ignoble list, about which most of my compatriots know far too little. Our Constitution was not written for application only in easy times, to be subverted every time a bunch of people are overcome with fear. Fear brought the Nazis to power. We should have stood firmly and strictly by our Constitution and hunted down the people responsible. And we should have addressed the disease that lies at the heart of religious fanaticism as well as the rage that is the result of our own imperial behavior.

The September 11 attack on the U.S. was not the disease; it was a severe outbreak of the symptom. The disease is Superpower Fever: the disease is a profound disconnection between the American people and the ordinary, real people of the rest of the world; a government that lies, a government that creates needless suffering at home and abroad, a government that instigates war in order to advance its own power and agenda. The disease is mass media repeating the propaganda of the power elite without exercising the courage to ask the hard questions that expose a mean agenda. It has often enough been said: we get the government (and the mass media) that we deserve. Unfortunately, our government and our corporations are responsible for creating misery around the world, from sweatshops in Indonesia to ecological disasters in Iceland. Whitman envisioned a far different country:

Whitman builds his great city on the shoulders of bards and orators, on the shoulders of poets. Whitman the oratorical optimist understands the cynicism of the politics of fear; he rejects the imposition of authority from "above," insisting that first there must be authority from within. He insists that it is not George W. Bush, but we, the people, who are responsible for more than 100,000 deaths and the decimation of a country that posed no serious threat to us. The citizen is the head, the ideal, and politicians merely our hirelings. The great city must arise from within us. The great and peaceful nation Whitman imagined is already there within us, if only we choose to imagine it and behave accordingly.

We were flooded with poems and letters of gratitude-and not a little hate mail. News broke about the "postponement" of the symposium, and we were flooded with news media. As we prepared for a national day of poetry readings and discussions opposing the war, we picked February 12, the day of Mrs. Bush's "postponed" event. We connected with a poets-against-the-war group in England, and another in Italy, and soon began developing an international network of poets opposing war. Poems continued to pour in that first week at one per minute: five thousand, six thousand, seven thousand . . . There was hate mail and a few death threats. There was a steady outpouring of gratitude from writers who felt silenced, exiled by this administration.

Our local internet provider called. Incoming mail was so heavy that it threatened to collapse the whole system. We called our old friend, Emily Warn, a Seattle poet who had worked at Microsoft. She connected us with Andy Himes at Project Alchemy, an organization that provides technical assistance for nonprofit organizations, and we formed a board of directors with Himes supervising creation of the Poets Against the War web site. His enthusiasm burned so brightly that he later went on to create Voices in Wartime, a companion web site to Poets Against the War. And his engagement there led to his production of the film, Voices in Wartime, an outstanding documentary on poets and war. Time and time again I was asked by media people, "Why can't you poets just leave the politics out of your poetry?" The answer: Because "politics" isn't thrown into a poem like a spoonful of curry into the pot. Poetry is a large house and has plenty of room for the overtly political, the covertly political, the personally political, even attempts to be apolitical, which is almost impossible. It has political traditions. Homer was political, The Iliad a great antiwar poem. Sappho evicted men from her community in part because she believed that "war-mongering is childish behavior." Anyone read Euripides or Sophocles? In Antigone, Haeman tells King Creon, "It is no polis that is ruled by one man." Who's more political than Dante? He wrote under a death sentence. Shakespeare? Lord Byron demanded a major overhaul of the English Parliament. Poetry is social speech in musical measure with traditions including the serious investigations of history and culture and language and the human condition. Don't start me on the Russians, the Spanish, the Chinese poets-in-exile past and present, the modern Greek poets . . .

I was attacked by a couple of former Nixon people on the op-ed pages of the (liberal?) New York Times and twice in the Wail Street Journal, all personal, ad hominem attacks, of course. The first Wall diatribe inspired one of my favorite moments during those hectic days. The phone rang. A voice said, "Hey, Hamill, you S.O.B.!" I assumed it was another threat and was about to hang up when the voice said, "This is Phil Levine. You've been savaged on the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal and I'm fucking green with envy."

For the first time in modern history, poetry was being discussed and debated in newspapers and magazines-and on talk radio, of course. Another moment of delight: I was on the Michael Medved talk radio show. He is, I gather, a right-winger who spends a lot of time on "family values." I found him to be, unlike his fellow travelers, a civilized man in his conduct. No shouting, no name-calling, just earnest disagreement with my position. Then a call-in, "William from Hawaii on the phone." Medved asks, "Are you a poet, William?" The voice says he is, and I interrupt to explain that this is W. S. Merwin, and Medved yelps, "The W. S. Merwin? The great poet?" It was my only encounter with a right-wing media personality who had clearly read at least one more or less living American poet. The others were still asking, as though entering the 2Oth century rather than 21st, "How come it don't rhyme?" A hundred years ago, Whitman was largely dismissed, his poetry laughed at. While he was singing a truly "American" idiom, his contemporaries continued to imitate the forms and syntax of their English masters. "Poetry is news that stays news" (Ezra Pound). American mass media is populated with people who are poetry-illiterate.

On February 17, in the midst of "the storm of the century," with New York City all but shut down, nearly 3,000 people showed up at Lincoln Center for "Poems Not Fit for the White House," sponsored by the Not in Our Name organization. They cheered, stomped, roared, and applauded through more than two rambunctious hours of joyful and sometimes heartrending protest from across the spectrum of American voices. And a moment for Stanley Kunitz, WW II conscientious objector, and another for Arthur Miller, who thanked me for starting Poets Against the War, introducing himself almost shyly, "My name is Arthur . . ."

On March 5, 2003, in the company of W. S. Merwin, Terry Tempest Williams, and PAW board member Peter Lewis, I delivered to Congress 12,000 poems by 11,000 poets opposing the war. We were hosted by Ohio Representative Marcie Kaptur, with Dennis Kucinich, John Conyers, Jim McDermott, and (my hero) Maxine Waters joining us. It is the largest single-theme poetry anthology ever compiled; if the manuscript were printed out, it would stand about six feet high. Poems have been read into the Congressional Record regularly since then. It has been quoted in the governing halls of England, France, Italy, German, Spain, and Japan, and many of the poems have been translated into various languages. At a dinner for organizers and compatriots, Seattle's Representative McDermott gave a deeply moving speech about how grateful he was for Poets Against the War and about the power of poetry. And in talks with Dennis Kucinich and Maxine Waters, I was struck by how much of the poetry they had read.

Working with 25 inexhaustible volunteer editors, in one week Sally Anderson and I edited 12,000 poems, selecting fewer than two hundred as representative of the whole, and the print edition of Poets Against the War became a best seller for Nation Books.

On a plane to Italy in the fall of 2003, I picked up a copy of the New Yorker someone had left behind and was astonished to read Mark Strand reviewing a huge selected poems of Pablo Neruda. He basically dismissed all of Neruda's overtly political poetry, glibly saying, "Political poetry has no legs." Excuse me? Has our reviewer read Sappho or the Chinese Poetry Classic? Does he realize that Neruda's "United Fruit Company" has been translated into something like a hundred languages? Has he heard the Mikos Theodorakis operatic treatment of Canto General that was performed to celebrate the fall of the rule of the colonels in Greece? Is Paradise Lost not a political poem? Our national anthem is a poem; most are.

The Italian press asked far more insightful questions, and its reporters were far less likely to be rooted in ignorant assumptions. I talked about Dante and Catullus, about Nazim Hikmet, Akhmatova, and Seferis and reminded them that Zbigniew Herbert was a young Dadaist fooling with words until he found himself in a Soviet prison, where he redefined his notions of poetry. They listened, they asked, and the Italian people responded to news of Poets Against the War with overwhelming enthusiasm. I spent ten days in Piacenza at a great literary festival with sixty or so writers from Europe, Africa, South and Central America, and Cuba. It was in Piacenza that I was fortunate enough to meet and read with Salah al Hamdani, an Iraqi poet in exile who had endured years in Saddam's prisons and who now makes his home in Paris.

Baghdad, Mon Amour

by Salah al Hamdani (translated by Molly Deschenes)

You cannot be crucified

On the side of a page

Of a story that is not your own,

Nor to the rhythm of the deaths that brood your plagues

Because there will be no cry to relieve your grief.

You cannot be crucified on the banks of the streams

Your body bleeds,

When the Euphrates washes away the secret of its soul

At the birth of a new defeat.

I know this:

No wound deserves a war.

You cannot be crucified at nightfall,

When you did not close your prayers

On the body of palm trees

Because there is no honorable assassin.

You cannot be crucified for the cinders of calamities,

For the tombs of your gods,

Or for the belief of a dying humanity.

Baghdad mon amour,

Not son, nor father, nor God,

No prophet crowned by the church will save your soul,

Not that of Mecca,

Not that of those who refuse

To share the olive trees in Palestine.

This is my notebook of war,

The years of exiles folded in a suitcase

Too long abandoned to the dreams of the convicted.

This is my share of victims,

My share of moon,

My harvest of nothingness,

My share of dust, words and cries.

This is my misfortune

Like a comma locking a line of ink.

Baghdad my love,

I was crouched in the corner of the page

In the shelter of the arid days,

Far from the torrents of blood

That carry the name of those shot with the silence of man.

Baghdad, mon amour,

Sitting like a Bedouin in a mirage

Lying on my shores, I cherished my own shroud.

Far from the cross, Fatima's palm and the star of David

Far from their books, their wars

Wandering in the sand of the dunes,

From the steppe to the city

I drag my body from season to season,

I trail you along from the couch to the mirror, from my room to the street

Between my writing and my solitude

In the shelter of their cemeteries,

Their martyrs, their morgues.

Baghdad my love,

You cannot tremble at the threshold of these ruins of days,

A civilization trained to kill

Violated your virginity.

Baghdad, city forever rebellious against your torturer Saddam,

You cannot groan at the only revelation of this hegemony,

Those who rushed around your body at death's door,

These "liberators" are their accomplices.

Madinat-al Salam,

City of peace,

Love in the soul of writing.

Baghdad my wound,

My father the working man died without knowing joy,

My mother mislaid her youth in the mirror

And the only witness to my first grief on your breast

Is the breath of the sand,

The starry sky and God's gaze on the call to prayer.

I wished so much today that man had never discovered fire

And cursed it to advance so much in its own din.

This soil that gave birth to me, today put to death.

Oh mother! I want to return inside your flesh

To hear the beating of your heart,

To quench my thirst in the murmur of your breath.

Very dangerous man, this poet with a huge, gentle, aching heart. Would our reporters ask him to "just leave the politics out of it?" How would Laura Bush "just leave the politics out" of the good gray Whitman? Langston had one subject: the African-American experience. How does one "leave the politics out" of that? I sat on that stage in the crowded little town square in Piacenza, and as I listened to Salah's elegant, steady baritone, I wept for my country and for his. I promised him afterward that I would get at least this poem of his, given to me in French, translated for an American audience.

I met with a number of mayors and city councils and such and was received warmly everywhere. And I had wonderful conversations-and sometimes little debates-with hundreds of high school students in Pisa and San Giuliano, where the mayor presented me with a big Italian "pace" banner and a lovely etching of the old city hall. During my travels in Italy, I wrote a long poem, "A Pisan Canto," reflecting on Ezra Pound and his politics and his time in the "gorilla cage" at the end of WW II, meditating on the character of those who would lead us now and on "the role of poetry" as I have perceived and practiced it for forty years.

Last fall, I spent two weeks at a gathering of poets in Lithuania, mostly in Vilnius, where I visited old haunts of Czeslaw Milosz and reread many of his books. His notions of "poetry of witness" have had a profound influence on my practice. The Lithuanians were astonished to learn that Milosz was very popular with American poets and readers. I visited a memorial park near Druskininkai that served to remind us of recent Lithuanian history-the Nazis, the Soviets. I dubbed it Scoundrel Square but was far more deeply moved than that might sound. The ordinary faces and lives of people who sold out their neighbors, their country, their souls: I thought of my old friend Shirley Kaufman, who translated the poetry of Abba Kovner, a Jewish poet who grew up in Vilnius and led the United Partisan Organization against the extermination of the Vilna ghetto before settling in Israel in 1946. He called poetry "a way of asking forgiveness for the evil in human existence." Lithuania has risen from the ashes of evil; it has begun to glow like amber.

Most of the young poets I met were avoiding the political in their poetry except inasmuch as it is influenced by rap and other performance arts. But as that generation matures, it will find history resting squarely upon its shoulders. Perhaps poets like Adam Zagajewski will show them the way, if the "burden" of a Milosz or an Abba Kovner is too great. There, as in Italy, I had the opportunity to extend cooperation between international organizations of poets, and to help get some good poetry translated. To see the U.S. from an Eastern European perspective, say, or from an Icelandic perspective, is to see ourselves with fresh eyes, with the eyes of the world, as various as each of them may be. I dream of an American administration that listens as much as it talks. The voices from the ghettos have important news to tell us still, as do those who have risen from its shadows.

Returning from Vilnius, I was sick at heart over Copper Canyon Press; I had been agonizing for more than two years. During his brief tenure as publisher at Copper Canyon Press, Thatcher Bailey had undermined respect for me and for my position, telling staff and board that my thirty years with the press was "just history," that "anyone can be the editor," and that he intended to "revision the press." He demanded my resignation as he departed. His behavior divided the staff and board and poisoned the well. I lost several outstanding staff members. Bailey is now director of Centrum, host organization to Copper Canyon Press at Fort Worden. One of his first official acts there was to dismiss me (with "honors," of course) from my position as director of the Port Townsend Writers Conference, and to do it publicly just two weeks before the 2004 conference was to begin. I didn't get the support I needed from senior staff at the press and could not function properly without it. A sacred trust was betrayed. I had no choice but to go. I will continue to support the poets and the poetry, of course: they have been my world for thirty-two years.

There is important work to be done with Poets Against the War, including a lot of work in development and organization, and I am presently committed to that. For the first time in history, there is a growing worldwide network of poets devoted to the traditional values of poetry and social engagement. Working together, we can help enlighten people everywhere, each in our own community, working together to make poetry better understood and to speak on behalf of decency and human rights wherever oppression raises its Janus mask. We can promote literacy and cross-cultural pollination, enriching our own lives and works in the process. And if some poet feels obliged to speak for those whose voices have been silenced, we might benefit by listening, even as that means listening to the dead. And numbering and naming the dead. If we're going to annihilate masses of people "for the good of the world," we might take the time and trouble to learn their language and cultural values and even their poetry.

Peace is born only within each of us, and peace in the world will never be achieved through the imposition of war. Whitman (like a Buddha) reminds us: order begins from within. Embody peace. Peace in the world or peace in the home, it is achieved only by mutual agreement to stand by a few well-chosen words. True peace is achieved from within, one person at a time. Poetry clarifies the vision. If war were an effective means to peace, the last century would not have been the bloodiest in all of history. Poets are good at helping people look more closely at words and all of their implications. The poem is a little body of language and music and enlightenment. A poem can embody or ennoble or inspire a moment of peace. A poem can change a life.

No, I could not walk away from Poets Against the War. Far too many people all across this world stood beside me in support of peace and poetry when I asked for a company of poets. I found myself asking whether being an ambassador for poetry was "right work" or "right practice," and I decided that indeed it is. Grampa Walt says it is my duty to contain multitudes, to dream a better U.S., where being a citizen of the world is a vital part of what we are. Emily tells me I have wild nights to live and fresh perspectives to discover. Langston reminds me that I still have a lot of brothers and sisters in chains (both visible and invisible chains: poverty is a prison), and that the struggle itself has merit. Jazz was born in the hearts of those who endured this country's greatest shame. Art matters. Those most abused, those left illiterate and impoverished, those with the least vocabulary-they invented the indelibly rich poetry of the blues. Sometimes that poetry made life worth living and their tales worth telling. Old Walt and Charley Patton remind me that I have a right to dream and a right to sing. Martin Luther King, Jr., reminds me that with those rights come real responsibilities, and that opposing violence in America can be dangerous.

Poetry saved my life when I was a misbegotten, self-destructive kid, and the way of poetry has determined the course of my life. It has saved, can save, and will save many others. Whether traveling on behalf of poetry and social engagement, teaching a little, or starting another press; whether printing on a letterpress or editing for someone else, or simply waiting for the first signs of spring, I plan to continue the proper conduct of my life-a life of service in the temple of poetry.

Copyright University of Virginia Spring 2005