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This review is taken from PN Review 144, Volume 28 Number 4, March - April 2002.

CONCENTRIC CIRCLES JOY HARJO, A Map to the Next World (W.W. Norton), £9.95

This book maps out, in graceful poetry and powerful prose, Joy Harjo's life of spiritual adventures and taps into the existence of the ethereal. A written testimony to the experiences and oral traditions of the author's Native American tribe, the Muscogee, this book is also an invitation to readers to begin their own journey, and make a map of their own.

Joy Harjo's talents do not lie solely in storytelling and verse writing; she is also a songwriter and band-member; and in 1997 she edited Reinventing the Enemy's Language: Contemporary Native Women's Writing of North America with Gloria Bird (also published by Norton; only available in the US). In the introduction to this anthology the editors write of the human propensity to '...learn the world and test it through interaction and dialogue with each other'. Although the written word is not interactive, it can be taken as a point of reference and channelled into a driving force. Similarly, this collection drives us to look at the world from a new perspective - not simply by looking through the eyes of Joy Harjo, but by changing our own vision.

Many of the poems in A Map to the Next World read as though they should be sung, and most of the tales have such a strong narrative thread that they would suit being read aloud. This quality of Harjo's writing gives a heady, lyrical feel to the poetry and acts as a constant reminder of the ...


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