April is poetry month. Professor Sally Harvey encouraged students to begin thinking about poetry on March 30 at the Crossing Borders presentation where she shared some selected works of two influential female poets. Numerous female poets have made an impact on literature. However, Harvey chose to reveal the talents and works of Wislawa Szymborska and Joy Harjo to the students and faculty who attended the presentation.
Wislawa Szymborska was born in Western Poland on July 2, 1923. She made her debut in 1945 with the poem “I am Looking for a Word,” published in a daily paper. Shortly after that she worked as a poetry editor and columnist in the literary weekly “Zycie Literackie” where the series of her essays “Lektury nadobowiazkowe” appeared.
Throughout her lifetime Szymborska published 16 collections of poetry, which are published in over 13 languages, and was named the Goethe Prize winner (1991) and Herder Prize winner (1995). She has a degree of Honorary Doctor of Letters of Poznan University (1995), and in 1996 she received the Polish PEN Club prize.
Joy Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma on May 9, 1951. The talented Native American was born into the Creek tribe into a family of Muscogee painters. Harjo had planned on being a painter like the rest of her family, but became enticed by the world of poetry and thereafter knew it was her calling.
She received her MFA in creative writing from the University of New Mexico in 1978 and taught at a handful of universities before joining the staff at her Alma Mater in 1990. Harjo’s first collection of poetry, “The Last Song,” was published in 1975.
Since then she has published nine other collections of poetry. Harjo has received many awards for her work, including the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation, the Poetry Society of America’s William Carlos Williams Award and the American Indian Distinguished Achievement Award, as well as other grants and fellowships, including a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 1978.
The Crossing Borders presentation itself was a very warm, indepth discussion that welcomed the eager participation from the audience as Professor Harvey read aloud Wislawa Szymborska’s poems “Falling From The Sky” and “Hatred,” as well as Joy Harjo’s poems “Perhaps The World Ends Here” and “The Woman Hanging from the Thirteenth Floor Window.”