The First Native American U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo Releases Soulful New Album: I Pray for my Enemies

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Poet Laureate of the United States Joy Harjo, June 6, 2019. Harjo is the first Native American to serve as poet laureate and is a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation. Photo by Shawn Miller/Library of Congress...Note: Privacy and publicity rights for individuals depicted may apply.
Poet Laureate of the United States Joy Harjo, June 6, 2019. Harjo is the first Native American to serve as poet laureate and is a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation. Photo by Shawn Miller/Library of Congress...Note: Privacy and publicity rights for individuals depicted may apply.
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U.S. POET LAUREATE – JOY HARJO
GROOVING HARD, IN FUNKIFIED SPOKEN WORD AND SOULFUL MUSIC, FEEDING THE SPIRIT OF A NATION ON HER NEW ALBUM – I PRAY FOR MY ENEMIES

Produced By: Barrett Martin and Joy Harjo
Released on March 5, 2021
Sunyata Records/Sony Orchard Distribution

In her first new recording in a decade, Joy Harjo – the first Native American named Poet Laureate of the United States – digs deep into the indigenous red earth and the shared languages of music to sing, speak and play a stunningly original musical meditation that seeks healing for a troubled world – I Pray for My Enemies, to be released from Sunyata Records/Sony Orchard Distribution on March 5, 2021.

Collaborating with producer/engineer Barrett Martin on this unique new album, Harjo brings a fresh identity to the poetry and songs that have made her a renowned poet of the Muscogee Creek Nation and one of the most authentic and compelling voices of these times. 

“The concept for I Pray for My Enemies began” says Harjo, “with an urgent need to deal with discord, opposition. It could have been on a tribal, national or a personal level. I no longer remember. The urgency had a heartbeat and in any gathering of two or more, perhaps the whole planet, our hearts lean to entrainment – that is, to beat together.” 

Latin Grammy-winning producer, composer and founding father of the historic Seattle music scene, Barrett Martin brings a new dimension to Harjo’s unique sound-world – her words and music spoken, sung and explored in a vibrant mix of classic instrumental sounds. Harjo and Martin describe it as “funkified spoken word” inspiring “elegant jazz, urban soul, and inner city, reservation grit.” Harjo sings and speaks her poetry, as well as playing saxophone and flute, on an album she describes as “very much of-the-moment.”

Martin holds it all together with drums, upright bass, keyboards and production duties on I Pray for My Enemies. He assembled an all-star band to explore Harjo’s work, featuring Peter Buck (R.E.M.) on electric guitar and feedback; Mike McCready (Pearl Jam) on electric guitar solos; Krist Novoselic (Nirvana) on acoustic guitar; and Rich Robinson (Black Crowes) on electric guitar solos. Additional players include renowned Iraqi oud master Rahim Alhaj; trumpeter Dave Carter and percussionist/backing vocalist Lisette Garcia. Harjo’s stepdaughters sing harmony vocals, and her husband Owen Sapulpa plays surdo drum on the album. 

Joy Harjo with Musical Instrument
Joy Harjo with Musical Instrument

Harjo defines songs and poems as distinctly different expressions, and both are featured in the 16 tracks that make up I Pray for My Enemies. Her words and music, older and newer, get a fresh new identity here. The album opens, however, with a traditional Muscogee song “Allay Na Lee No.” “Music travels,” she says, adding, “It travels through history, ancestors and especially loves ports and waterways.” 

Some of Harjo’s defining poems appear here – “An American Sunrise,” “Fear,” “Running” and “Remember” – refracting her own experience as a Native American woman of her culturally defining generation. “Calling the Spirit Back,” from an early collection of Harjo’s poems, and the new song “How Love Blows Through the Trees” – written when COVID-19 reached her home in Tulsa, OK – echo the suffering of a world experiencing a pandemic. 

“Once the World Was Perfect” is based on a version of a Muscogee Creek creation story, which describes a time similar to now. She says, “We lost our way in the dark, forgot who we were, then had to find our way again.”

Vignettes and “licks” of songs and poems also appear on I Pray for My Enemies, ranging from the epiphany of “We Emerged from Night in Clothes of Sunrise” to the playful “trickster” piece “Rabbit Invents the Saxophone.” Both feature Harjo’s soulful sax. “Stomp All Night” delivers all the primal energy the title suggests, inspired by Muscogee Creek social dances.

Joy Harjo
Joy Harjo

Joy Harjo is the author of several books of poetry, plays, children’s books. In May, The Library of Congress will release Living Nations, Living Words:  an Anthology of First Peoples Poetry: and in September a memoir Poet Warrior, A Call for Love and Justice, Oprah Winfrey recently picked her anthology of Native American poetry for her book club. 

Her many honors include the Ruth Lily Prize for Lifetime Achievement from the Poetry Foundation; the Academy of American Poets Wallace Stevens Award; PEN USA Literary Award and many others. Harjo is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and is a founding board member of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she is a Tulsa Artist Fellow. She has been a featured performer on stages around the world, including Def Poetry Jam, the Public Theater in NYC, and the International Poetry Festival in Medellin, Colombia.

Souce Article as per mail request from Crossover Media, all rights with Crossover Media

About Post Author

Suman Munshi

Founder Editor of IBG NEWS (15/Mar/2012- 09/Aug/2018). Recipient of Udar Akash Rokeya Shakhawat Hossain Award 2018. National Geographic & Canon Wild Clicks 2011 jury and public poll winner. Studied Post Graduate Advance Dip in Computer Sc., MBA IT,LIMS (USA & Australia), GxP(USA & UK),BA (Sociology) Dip in Journalism (Ireland), Diploma in Vedic Astrology, Numerology, Palmistry, Vastu Shastra & Feng Sui 25 years in the digital & IT industry with Global MNCs' worked & traveled in USA, UK, Europe, Singapore, Australia, Bangladesh & many other countries. Education and Training advance management and R&D Technology from India, USA, UK, Australia. Over 30 Certification from Global leaders in R&D and Education. Computer Science Teacher, IT & LIMS expert with a wide fan following in his community. General Secretary West Bengal State Committee of All Indian Reporter’s Association
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