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National Poetry Month: ‘She Had Some Horses’

This month I would like to mention several collections of poetry that speak to me. Let’s begin with Joy Harjo’s 1983 collection She Had Some Horses with its powerful title poem of the same name. Harjo’s poems are wind, rain, earth, fire, and spirit. Read them when you have time to meditation upon the pure, non-human and essential wildness of the natural world at its most basic and primitive level. This book is a good first step.

“I discovered “She Had Some Horses” while preparing for the poetry class I teach at an elementary school in San Francisco. Harjo’s poems ache with grit, grief and nature. They feel like that moment of insomnia when twilight breaks. Her lines are curt and heavy but they construct delicate stories. I thought She Had Some Horses would be perfect for kids this young, whose imaginations are still lush and wild. To them, horses are still spirited creatures, not farm workers.” – Julie Morse in The Rumpus

Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Harjo is a member of the Mvskoke Nation. She has written seven books of award winning poetry. She also writes and performs original music, available on five CDs

In her introductory remarks to the 1997 edition, Harjo writes, “I do not know how to explain the horses, how to tell you about the genesis of the poems, or the poem “She had some horses.” I am asked often about these poems, to elaborate the process, the history, the mythic sense, the horses, I have changed as much as these poems through the years. Nothing ever stays the same, whether it be poems or humans. When I look back over the many lines between then and now I remember a very young woman with a typewriter, entering the field of imagination with a great trust, even wildness. And there were the horses shimmering in the sun and rain on the battlefield of gains and losses, always revealing the possibility of love.”

For the current 2008 paperback edition introduction, she says, “Horses, like the rest of us, can transform and be transformed. A horse could be a streak of sunrise, a body of sand, a moment of ecstasy. A horse could be all of this at the same time. Or a horse might be nothing at all but the imagination of the wind. Or a herd of horses galloping from one song to the next could become a book of poetry.”

The horse is my totem animal. Perhaps he nudged me into this book. Or maybe it was the wind or the gods. You will find your way into this marvel if the universe wills it. If so, you will never leave. Every time you walk from page to page you will be changed. That’s the nature of the words you’ll find here.

–Malcolm

 

 

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