Image of sand slipping through a hand

Image by Kunj Parekh/Unsplash


Dear friends,

Last week, I had a phone call with a friend. It was nice to catch up, we hadn’t spoken properly in a while, and there was a lovely warmth in our conversation. It was technically a work call, but we spent at least half of the allocated time talking about what was going on, and how we were doing. 

As we were about to move to our work, I mentioned that it is coming up to the first year anniversary of the death of a friend of ours, Glenn. 

Oh, I had a long conversation with him last night in a dream, my friend on the phone said. And I laughed, because I’ve been calling on all the gods to send Glenn to my dreams in the year since he died; and in the one dream I did have, he was running. How was he? I asked my friend on the phone. He was in fine form, my friend said. Talking, full of life. 

We moved on to talk about work but all the while I felt like my dead friend Glenn was with me, that even though he hadn’t been in my dream, he’d come to me through my friend's dream. And, truth be told, I’d needed that companionship. I’ve been missing him. At the end of the phone call, I said to my friend, If Glenn turns up in your dreams again tonight, tell him I said hi. 

I’ll try to remember, he said. 

What happens to us in our dreams? There are some late-evening-pizza dreams, of course, and anxiety dreams. But there are other dreams that come out of nowhere, or, to be more specific, out of somewhere; somewhere that is wise, that has knowledge, somewhere that can turn us towards something that might help us. 

Krista’s glorious conversation with Joy Harjo this week starts off in dreams. Joy Harjo had a dream where she remembered her birth. To dream your own birth is to dream a new way of relating to time and place: you are both in the moment, and also outside the moment watching it. It is the particular gift of Joy Harjo to help us see ourselves through a generous reading of time; and this seeing is one that both enlarges and focuses. And this is a repeated theme throughout the conversation between Krista and Joy, who is now in her second term as the 23rd U.S. Poet Laureate. She’s also a talented musician, singer, performer and visual artist. 

Joy Harjo is a member of the Muscogee Creek nation, and grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma where she still lives. The story of land and people is a powerful theme in this week’s show. Krista grew up in the same state and she speaks with Joy about how the language of place — Tecumseh, Potawatomi and Seminole — was so present in Oklahoma yet not present enough in the understanding of the story of the place. “I’m a great-grandmother now,” Joy says. “I was a grandmother in my 30s and a teenage mother. And what that’s given me is kind of a broader sense of the story field.” And it is into this story field that she brings us: in reflections on Native life today, in relationship with the long generations of Native life in the U.S., but outside the tropisms that can be burdensome expectations. “People expect us to be in our traditional outfits if we’re recognized. They don’t recognize us unless we’re mascots or we’re wearing our traditional outfits,”Joy says.

‘Spiritual’ is a word that Joy Harjo prefers not to use — she speaks about how sometimes spiritual can be applied to First Nations people in a way that both projects misperceptions and denies the fact that all people have a relationship to place. Spirituality and Place are the same conversation here. Then she builds on that to speak about the body, saying “the intangible sense of personhood is held in the complex tent of body and place.

Joy Harjo speaks about how her love for her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren is the rudder of hope that will lead towards justice. Our two episodes of Poetry Unbound this week come from a couple. On Monday, Vievee Francis’ “How Delicious to Say it,” a poem that trots out gorgeous words but ends on the most beautiful word of all, the name of her love, Matthew. And on Friday, a poem from Matthew Olzmann, Vievee's husband. His poem lists all the reasons he loves Vievee, but then lands on one particular one: because of that one time when she had no money, but bought him a bottle of Mountain Dew because she knew he liked it. “Mountain Dew Commercial Disguised as a Love Poem” brings richness to this week’s listening. Both of these poems have a relationship to time and particularity: Vievee Francis’ poem looks at words that span history; and Matthew Olzmann’s looks at specific parts of the love story of a couple. Each poem brings its focus in and out of view, landing — in both cases — on how love holds language and story together. 

Friends, in all your circumstances this week, we pray that love, and a generous reading of time can guide you and center you towards justice and life. 


Beir bua, 

Pádraig Ó Tuama
host of Poetry Unbound




This Week at The On Being Project

Our Latest Episode

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On Being with Krista Tippett
Joy Harjo
The Whole of Time

“Though I was reluctant to be born, I was attracted by the music. I had plans... I did not want to leave mystery, yet I was ever curious and ready to take my place in the story.” 

Listen on:
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Poetry Unbound

Vievee Francis 
How Delicious to Say It

Love takes time to learn. And with the passage of time, simple things like saying your lover's name can come to embody the beauty and mystery of love.

Matthew Olzmann
Mountain Dew Commercial Disguised as a Love Poem

A love poem that doesn’t diminish a lover, but extols her;  naming — in story, image, idiosyncrasy and respect — all the reasons why a marriage might work. 

Listen on:
Apple Podcasts
Google Podcasts
Our Website



Logo image of Council of Foreign Affairs, Princeton University,

and Pen America

2021 Council on Foreign Relations' Religion and Foreign Policy Workshop: Krista in conversation with CFR President, Richard Haass
Tue May 18, 2021 12:45am – 2:15pm EDT

Each year since 2007, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Religion and Foreign Policy Workshop has been convening a diverse group of religious leaders, CFR fellows, and other experts to examine pressing concerns at the intersection of religion and foreign policy. Krista will be in conversation with Richard Haass, President of CFR, delving into “common life,” and the parallels between religion and politics in the public sphere. To learn more about the work of the Council on Foreign Relations visit their website.

The Adventure of Civility: Krista in conversation with Princeton students
Fri, May 21, 2021, 12:00 pm to 1:15 pm EDT
Online Event

As part of the fourth annual Distinguished Teaching Lecture in Service and Civic Engagement, Krista will be speaking with Princeton students about her experience in civic engagement and adventurous civility. Sponsored by Princeton University Public Lectures, the University Center for Human Values, the John H. Pace, Jr. '39 Center for Civic Engagement, and the Program in Journalism. This online event is open to the public, for more information and to register visit here. 

2021 PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature: Pádraig interviews Joy Harjo 
Fri, May 21st, 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm EDT
Online Event

Joy Harjo says that her latest album, I Pray for My Enemies, addresses “an urgent need to deal with discord and opposition” through song in the hopes of inspiring hearts all around the world “to beat together.”

Pádraig will talk with Joy about her life, music, and Native poetry as a gateway to understanding American history, including her groundbreaking anthology of First peoples’ poetry, Living Nations, Living Words



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