ShapED My Life – Joy Harjo


I’m the first Native American or
American Indian poet laureate and I’m the first US poet laureate from Oklahoma.
I feel like I have incredible responsibility because it’s an
opportunity for visibility for native poets. I loved doing art as a child
growing up here in Tulsa, I come from a family of painters, my grandmother Naomi
Harjo was a painter. I started writing in my early 20s and then when I was
almost 40 I started playing saxophone, so I’m always learning something, it doesn’t
end. I started out here at Burbank Elementary School and there was a
teacher there that, she terrified me okay her name was Mrs. Wastear, I learned
from her that to be free you need to have rules you need to have structure and
some kind of order and so I always remember her. It was called junior high
then, Cleveland junior high, and I was supposed to be in the advanced art class and
I get my schedule and that class isn’t on there, so I go into this physics class
now I I didn’t sign up for physics but I stayed in that class I gave up my
beloved art class because this teacher loved what he was doing and that really
matters. It’s probably one of the most esteemed professions,
and what you do in that classroom will make an immense difference. I am a Tulsa
artist fellow and I write in here I create music, it’s a place I come to hide
out and work. I just want to say thank you to all those teachers out
there doing the work who loved it and who are have an integrity about it and
you may not get a thank-you every day but you know those children and young
people they appreciate it and they will.

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