The Works of 10 Contemporary Native American Poets


Joy Harjo, “Deer Dancer”

The woman inside the woman who was to dance naked in the bar
of misfits
blew deer magic. Henry jack, who could not survive a sober day,
thought she
was Buffalo Calf Woman come back, passed out, his head by the
toilet. All
night he dreamed a dream he could not say. The next day he
money, went home, and sent back the money I lent. Now that’s a
Some people see vision in a burned tortilla, some in the face of a

From an interview with Harjo on The Rumpus:

As a poet, I was present at the beginning of the multicultural literary movement in the mid-’70s. There was great resistance in the academy. There still is. I was told that a voice against my hire in a major university believed that multicultural literature was a sham. This was in 2000. A colleague in my first university hired in the mid-’80s sauntered into my office and called me a primitive poet. And anything of indigenous/aboriginal origin often falls away into the “disappeared” or “exotic other” category.

Some of us emerge despite the difficulties. Poetry is always diversifying. That is the nature of art. There will always be stalwarts of Euro or even other classical traditions, who dismiss any version or branch. This is true in Muscogean dance traditions, jazz, or any other form.

Read the poem.
Visit Joy Harjo’s website.