“Remember” by Joy Harjo provides a series of instructions to advance and enhance a person’s life. Using the second person pronoun “you” personalizes the poem and allows the reader to feel as though the poet is speaking directly to her. The poem encourages the reader to assert her ability to survive in the modern world.
The poem uses the word “remember” as a refrain to emphasize the guidance that the poet provides. This word introduces every new idea presented. This is a characteristic of Harjo’s poetry symbolizing the idea that the poem might be thought of as a Native American chant. Another characteristic of her poetry is the reference to the natural world: universe, sky, and star.
What are the reminders provided in the poem?
Sunrise is the most important time of day
Look at the sunset as it brings the night.
Always value mothers who give man breathe and survival. Never forget how hard it was to give birth. The reader is a part of the mother and her ancestors.
Welcome the father because without him there would be no life.
The earth gives the colors to all people: white, red, yellow, black. Nature can be segregated into many parts. Become a part of the natural world by talking and listening to it. The flora and fauna are alive.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have
their tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to
Listen to them. They are alive poems.
The wind speaks and tells the story of the universe.
Every group of people connects to the others. Man cannot isolate himself. He must be a part of the rest of the world. Never be stagnant. Grow. Allow the language of life to dance within.
What wonderful advice for a person to include in his life! The connection to nature and and the human race frees the person to live life to its fullest.
Joy Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma on May 9, 1951, and is a member of the Mvskoke/Creek Nation.
Harjo received a BA degree from the University of New Mexico before earning an MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop in 1978.
Her books of poetry include Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings (W. W. Norton, 2015); How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems (W. W. Norton, 2002); A Map to the Next World: Poems (W. W. Norton, 2000); The Woman Who Fell From the Sky (W. W. Norton, 1994), which received the Oklahoma Book Arts Award; In Mad Love and War (Wesleyan University Press, 1990), which received an American Book Award and the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award; Secrets from the Center of the World (University of Arizona Press, 1989); She Had Some Horses (Thunder's Mouth Press, 1983); and What Moon Drove Me to This? (Reed Books, 1979). She has also written a memoir, Crazy Brave (W. W. Norton, 2012), which describes her journey to becoming a poet, and which won the 2013 PEN Center USA literary prize for creative nonfiction.
Also a performer, Harjo has appeared on HBO's Def Poetry Jam in venues across the U.S. and internationally. She plays saxophone with her band Poetic Justice, and has released four award-winning CD's of original music. In 2009, she won a Native American Music Award (NAMMY) for Best Female Artist of the Year.
Harjo’s other honors include the PEN Open Book Award, the American Indian Distinguished Achievement in the Arts Award, the Josephine Miles Poetry Award, the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award, the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and fellowships from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, the Witter Bynner Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Most recently, she received the 2015 Wallace Stevens Award for proven mastery in the art of poetry by the Academy of American Poets. About Harjo, Academy of American Poets ChancellorAlicia Ostiker said: “Throughout her extraordinary career as poet, storyteller, musician, memoirist, playwright and activist, Joy Harjo has worked to expand our American language, culture, and soul. A Creek Indian and student of First Nation history, Harjo is rooted simultaneously in the natural world, in earth—especially the landscape of the American southwest— and in the spirit world. Aided by these redemptive forces of nature and spirit, incorporating native traditions of prayer and myth into a powerfully contemporary idiom, her visionary justice-seeking art transforms personal and collective bitterness to beauty, fragmentation to wholeness, and trauma to healing.”
Harjo is Professor of English and American Indian studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings (W. W. Norton, 2015)
How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems (W. W. Norton, 2002)
A Map to the Next World: Poems (W. W. Norton, 2000)
The Woman Who Fell From the Sky (W. W. Norton, 1994)
In Mad Love and War (Wesleyan University Press, 1990)
Secrets from the Center of the World (University of Arizona Press, 1989)
She Had Some Horses (Thunder's Mouth Press, 1983)
What Moon Drove Me to This? (Reed Books, 1979)