Joy Harjo: Crazy Brave


“The story matrix is all energy & music. There is a luminosity that connects all of us – everything. Even the worst of us are luminous beings. We are all stories. No such thing as time. We are each other’s stories.” ~Joy Harjo

“Harjo is a magician and a master of the English language.” ~Jonah Raskin, San Francisco Chronicle 

If you’ve been following Matrignosis you know that at the age of ten I had a Big dream about the Lone Ranger, Tonto, and Silver. Years later when I discovered Jungian psychology, I began to understand Tonto’s role in that dream. Now I believe he symbolized my inner shaman, my  instinctual native intelligence that eventually led me to my passions for writing and dreamwork.

Had I not taken that dream and the intense feelings it aroused in me seriously; had I not respected my inner realities and conducted years of inner work to understand them; had I not eventually overcome my fear of putting myself out there in my writing, I would never have tapped into my creative potential, never made the contribution that only I could make.

Every psyche contains a deep well of native intelligence and creative power. We all contain an archetypal guide — Carl Jung called it the Hierophant — who can lead us there. Hierophant is a Greek word for a wise person who brings people into the presence of wholeness and holiness by interpreting universal principles and sacred mysteries. In your psyche your Hierophant equates to a form of metacognition that taps into the specialties of both hemispheres of your brain — logos and mythos — and weaves them together into a bigger, more complete perspective on life than either side alone can imagine.

To awaken your Hierophant and the destiny to which it can lead you, you have to overcome all manner of enemies and obstacles. Some — like fear, lethargy, self-criticism, self-doubt, ignorance, and pride lie within you. Others — poverty, racism, family dysfunction, social pressure to conform, lack of education, and abuse — are forced on you from without. The way to find the whole and holy place within you that is guarded by your dragons is to acquire the courage to face them all full on. You have to be brave. Crazy Brave.

Joy Harjo is a Crazy Brave Hierophant. On June 19, 2019, this internationally known award-winning poet, storyteller, activist, saxophone player, performer, author, and playwright was appointed the 23rd United States Poet Laureate. She is the first Native American to hold this position. Born into the Mvskoke/Creek Nation in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the final destination of the Trail of Tears, she has captured America’s imagination and respect by following her inner shaman past her personal dragons to her creative well.

Listen with your heart to these words from her inaugural reading as U.S. Poet Laureate:

“…when you go into the place of poetry, as a writer or a reader of poetry, you go into that place beyond time, you go into that place beyond words…and you find things there, you find yourself, you can find ancestors, you find out that those stones out there can speak, and the trees have their own language. Now the scientists are coming out with all kinds of books about this, but this is part of our old knowledge.”

Shaman knowledge. Hierophant knowledge.

Harjo’s genius lies in her ability to weave both sides of her whole and holy Self — her soul’s twins — into one creative tapestry that contains the world without and the world within, past and present, soul and spirit, logos and mythos, literal fact and gut instinct, masculine and feminine, bright side and dark shadow.

As the Judges Citation of the 2019 Jackson Prize from the Poetry Society of America declares,

“Harjo’s work speaks not only to the world we live in, but to the unseen world that moves through us, the thread that has connected us all from the start…. Harjo’s poems embody a rich physicality and movement; they begin in the ear and the eye, they go on to live and hum inside the body…. Throughout her luminous and substantial body of work, there is a sense of timelessness, of ongoingness, of history repeating; these are poems that hold us up to the truth and insist we pay attention.”

This crazy brave woman’s ability to hold both worlds together and manifest them in her work has resulted in nine books of poetry, a memoir, five CD’s of music and poetry, a one-woman show, and several plays and children’s books. You can read about her many honors and awards at the links below.

I met Joy Harjo last Thursday night when she and two other artists — multidisciplinary artist, Sook Jin Jo, and composer/performer/producer, Larry Mitchell (who also plays guitar with Joy’s band) — were introduced to local members of the Atlantic Center for the Arts, where they are currently master artists in residency.

My first experience of my Hierophant appeared in the dream of a ten year-old girl who idolized a Hollywood characterization of a fictional Native American tracker named Tonto. But now that I’ve experienced Joy Harjo’s mystical, hauntingly courageous style, in my imaginarium I see her and Tonto, two bold and proud warriors — Mvskoke/Creek and Mohawk — standing together. My personal image of my soul’s twins feels complete.

Enjoy this blessing that opens her book, Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings. I dedicate it to the memory of Cicero Greathouse, my dear crazy brave artist friend who will be deeply missed by all who knew and loved him.

Bless the poets, the workers for justice,

the dancers of ceremony, the singers of heartache

the visionaries, all makers and carriers of fresh

meaning — We will all make it through,

despite politics and wars, despite failures

and misunderstandings. There is only love.

Joy Harjo’s website
Joy Harjo named first Native American poet laureate
Joy Harjo Becomes The 1st Native American U.S. Poet Laureate
Joy Harjo Becomes First Native American Writer to Be Named U.S. Poet Laureate 

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Her new book, The Soul’s Twins, will be launched next year.

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15 Responses

  1. That was awesome! Thank you so much Jeanie for introducing me to the joy that is known in this world as “Joy Harjo” with her incredible poetry and song. I didn’t have time to listen to her speech but I did listen to her earlier poems on YouTube … the one she calls ‘a poem to get rid of fear’ (brilliant!) and another titled “Remember” (beautiful!) and finally “She Had Some Horses”(just wow!).
    What an incredible portrayal (in my whole being!) you’ve painted now with her and Tonto standing side-by-side and how healing this image must be for you! How amazing it is to weave and connect your dreams and events that happened so long ago and yet here is the rich, beautiful, unfolding tapestry of your life. What joy it is when another piece of the puzzle of our lives falls into place!
    Oh, this poet (and many other readers I’m sure!) will resonate deeply with ‘following her inner shaman, past her personal dragons to her creative well!’ What joy it is know that (at times!) I’m standing on the other side of my demons … although from time to time, in order to acquire more knowledge, I do have to make those dangerous trips back to that place … or as I call it back to “Plato’s Cave”
    How kind of you to dedicate Joy’s blessing to your dear friend Cicero Greathouse. Thank you for sharing it! Cicero, was such a great name that he carried in life, which from your dedication, I get the feeling suited him well indeed. “There is only love! (and Joy!)” … and in pure joyful synchronicity, this is the second beautiful “Joy” (Elaine’s new puppy!) that I’ve met this week! Warm autumnal blessings, Deborah.

    1. Hi Deborah,
      I’m so glad to hear you liked this one. I was pretty sure you would love her work. I thought of you as I was writing this one. I love the poem about fear and read it at a Jungian conference a couple of weekends ago. Everyone just sat there stunned. It was spellbinding. It’s my favorite of hers so far. Because it resonates is deeokt with me…. And I love “She Had Some Horses” too! Yeah, Wow! She really has a way of creating a sort of numinous ambience with her music and words.
      Her memoir is the same way. I just loved it. She had a very tough life for a very long time. And she writes about it in a style that is very poetic and almost dreamlike. She takes you into another world where anything can happen…or not…and you’re not sure which one, and it doesn’t really matter because you just love being there so much.
      Yes, some of us referred to Cicero as Cicero Greatheart! He was a big man with a big talent. I imagine you realize the mandela painting on the front of my last book, Healing the Sacred Divide, are his art.
      Blessings and peace, Jeanie

  2. Many congratulations to Joy Harvo on being US Poet Laureate! Thank you for introducing me to her Jeannie, and for Deborah’s comment about her readings on youtube. I’ll follow that up. And of course it is lovely to have an affirmation about the mysteries and mythos and logos and the connection that there is in order to have a wider view of the world, inner and outer, and our place in it. And again, the reminder to look at our dreams more seriously with the gravitas that they deserve. It’s a while since I’ve thought of the word ‘Hierophant’ – the name for our inner guide.
    Many condolences to all those who feel the loss of Cicero … Joy’s blessing is lovely indeed.

    1. Thanks, Susan. I think you’ll enjoy her poetry. Her memoir is really excellent too. Very beautifully written…I’ve described her style in my response above. She definitely has a powerful connection with the inner depths we all share…what Jung called the collective unconscious. She goes places with her writing that I’ve never thought, or quite dared to go. So schooled have I been into a left-brained logos way of writing and thinking that I’ve just not quite had the guts (not to mention the talent or knowhow), to go very far beyond it into poetic territory. I’d like to, though…..maybe one of these days. She inspires me. Thank you for your condolences for the loss of our friend. He was a giant of a man. Jeanie

  3. Hi and thank you for this lovely post. I like what you said about the Hierophant and need to find out more about some vivid dreams I have had that are far too important not to understand the real meaning in them.
    I hadn’t heard of Crazy Brave Jo Harvo until now but can relate to her poetry, I wish I could verbalise my sense of connection with the natural world as well as she does. I look forward to reading more of her poetry.

    1. Hi maskednative. Thank you for writing. Yes, your knowing that these vivid dreams are too important not to understand is a message from your Hierophant. It’s speaking to you in that knowing and those gut feelings that accompany it. You’ll never be sorry if you start working on those dreams.
      If you need help, my book, Dream Theatres of the Soul, is meant to be a guide. It can be found here if you’re interested:
      If you are trying to find a way to verbalize your connection with the natural world, I’d say Joy Harjo is a must-read for you. She’s quite remarkable.
      Best of luck with your inner work, Jeanie

  4. Jeanie, thank you so much for introducing me to Joy. I ended up listening to an interview with her by Oprah (online at Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations). Never have I heard a voice as pared down to its bare essence – a model of transforming a life from lead to gold. Best, Diane

    1. “…a voice…pared down to its bare essence — a model of transforming a life from lead to gold.” Yes, and yes! This is who she is. I’m so glad to have found her, and to have been able to share what I found with you, dear soul sister. Thank you for writing. Jeanie

      1. Thank you for your comment. Please forgive me for taking so long to reply. I somehow missed this before and now must go back and check into all my received comments. It’s so lovely to hear positive results; your words are appreciated.

  5. I loved reading this, Jeanie. I knew of your Tonto and Lone Ranger dream and enjoy hearing how you keep unpacking the images of a dream from many years ago. How wonderful to meet Joy Harjo and thanks for writing about her. I’d read a little of her poetry, but you inspire me to read more, and I haven’t read her memoir. So many books to read while entertaining a new pup.

    1. Thanks Elaine. Her memoir is very bold and inspiring. I wish I could write like that! I think you’ll like it. Talk about bold and inspiring….I don’t think I could take on another puppy now. It’s a BIG job! But if anyone can do it, you can. 🙂

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