The Englewood Review of Books
Best Books of 2021
Joy Harjo, Ed.
Paperback: W.W. Norton, 2021
Buy Now: [ IndieBound ][ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]
In her introduction, Harjo recognizes the project’s urgency given the times: “The mapmaking represented by this anthology comes at a crucial time in history, a time in which the failures to acknowledge, listen, and to consider everyone when making the map of American memory has brought us to a reckoning.” For its part, Living Nations, Living Words reckons with this crossroads by drawing a truer map, a fuller map unapologetic in its anger and its hope, its emphasis, in Harjo’s words, on “visibility, persistence, resistance, and acknowledgement.” This is a map not just of where the nation has been—where the nations have been—but of where we might go. And so it is fitting that the last few poems voice different paths that circle back to find the way forward: “In Beauty it was begun,” insists Laura Tohe. “In Beauty it continues.” Several pages later, in “Postcolonial Love Poem,” Natalie Diaz writes, “There are wildflowers in my desert / which take up to twenty years to bloom.” She concludes with an open-ended admission that the work is far from done:
The rain will eventually come, or not.
Until then, we touch our bodies like wounds—
The war never ended and somehow begins again.
– from a review of this book by Cynthia Wallace
(which appeared on the Ploughsahres website)
[ READ the full review ]
LISTEN to a conversation about this book with Joy Harjo and contributor Layli Long Soldier: