Stephanie Elliott discusses performance poet Joy Harjo

The concert by Joy Harjo with Larry Mitchell in Crowell Concert Hall has been canceled. The Wesleyan University Box Office will be in contact with ticket holders regarding refunds.

Joy Harjo. Photo by Karen Kuehn.

Wesleyan University Press has just published a fantastic new collection of poems by the powerful poet, Joy HarjoSoul Talk, Song Language has been on the table in my office for the past few weeks, in anticipation of her visit to Wesleyan. I can’t tell you the number of people who have come in for meetings who’ve said, “I love Joy Harjo!  Is she coming?”

We’re delighted to have Ms. Harjo and her longtime musical partner, rock guitarist and Grammy award-winning producer Larry Mitchell, perform at Crowell Concert Hall next week. Click here to visit her YouTube Channel.

I sat down with Stephanie Elliott from WesPress to talk about Ms. Harjo and her work. Ms. Elliott said: “[Joy] Harjo’s work is a search for truth—a questioning of purpose and identity—as much as it is an expression of beauty. Her poetry embodies a reconstruction of the tribal past, and is cause for reflection on the continuing confrontation between Indigenous and Anglo civilizations.”  When I asked her why Ms. Harjo’s poetry is so important and relevant today, she said:  “With projects like Brazil’s proposed Belo Monte dam and the development Alberta’s Athabasca oil sands threatening indigenous people in calamitous ways, [Joy] Harjo’s artistic expressions are especially timely.”

Joy Harjo’s performance invokes spoken word, storytelling, and song—punctuated by her own mean jazz saxophone. Her character-driven narratives are inspired by the traditions of her people as well as by her observations from around the globe.  According to Ms. Elliott, “her work is about healing, demonstrating how poetry, music, storytelling, and theater can bring new understanding to our lives.”  The music is jazzy and soulful and punctuates her insightful poetry in surprising ways.

Here’s hoping you’ll join us next Friday for this special treat.

Pamela Tatge
Director, Center for the Arts