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JOY HARJO. Photo: Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie. JO Y H A R JO W ILL RECEIVE t h e D i s t i n g u i s h e d a c h i e v e m e n t A w a r d a t t h e W e s t e r n L i t e r a t u r e A s s o c i a t i o n C o n f e r e n c e in N o r m a n , O k l a h o m a , TH IS FA LL. A n In t e r v ie w w it h J o y H a r j o J a n i c e G o u l d Though I knew the poetry of Joy Harjo from having read it in anthologies and in her book She Had Some Horses (1983), we did not meet until 1989 when my partner and I moved to Albuquerque so I could attend the University of New Mexico. Joy was reading at The Living Batch bookstore from her then new manuscript of poems that would appear as In Mad Love and War (1990). Soon after that Joy moved to Albuquerque, but our busy lives often prevented socializing. We joked when we saw one another that we met more often at national confer­ ences than in town, barring chance meetings at Smith’s food store in Albuquerque’s north valley. Eventually, we both moved away from Albu­ querque—Joy to Hawaii, while I moved to Portland. The following interview was conducted in 1999 by e-mail over the course of about a month. I sent questions to Joy, and between perfor­ mances during late January and early February, she thought about and wrote answers to the questions I sent. This is not an interview in the sense of a dialogue but more a juxtaposition of questions and responses. JG: I’ve been thinking about our lives as artists (poets), about what sus­ tains them when the dominant culture seems to have so little use for art/poetry. We both had musical mothers, and we’ve both had encourage­ ment and training in the arts. So one edge of my curiosity has to do with how you sustain your life as an artist and creator. What nourishes you? JH: As I think about this question, a string of Java sparrows swings on the phone wires from the house. The plumeria tree is on the edge of bloom, and the Pacific is down the hill, through Kalihi, and it surrounds everything. I am thinking of turning off the computer and loading up my outrigger canoe and heading out into the water. This morning I worked on a new story, tentatively titled “How to Get to the Planet Venus.” It takes place at Indian School in Santa Fe in the late sixties. While I was writing it, I was there all over again, but it was a different there, it was later, and I have grown past that confused child who also had moments of rough genius, as did all the young Native artists blooming there. We grew there together in that time and in that place. We incubated our lives as artists and creators. Some of us made it to the other side of colonized madness, others didn’t, but we carry them with us wherever we go. How to sustain? It’s a given that we were bom and will eventually die in this place. It’s an art to figure out how to move gracefully, how to leave behind a path that will rejuvenate those who follow. Doing it as a poet, musician, as someone who is in the service of creativity is not always the easiest way, especially in these times. In 1980, I was invited to Amster­ dam to read poetry. Other invited poets included Allen Ginsberg, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Okot B’Pitek, and James Welch. We read to huge audi­ ences in the Milkweg, or Milky Way, a large, central on-the-edge perfor­ mance space and cultural meeting ground. Hundreds...


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