32 pages 1 hour read

Joy Harjo

An American Sunrise

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 2017

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Writing Prompts and Comparative Essay Suggestions

1. Carefully select three consecutive lines of the poem in which you replace the plural first-person pronouns with singular ones (“I” instead of “we,” “me” instead of “us”). Rewrite these lines, adjusting verbs and phrases accordingly; then read the lines aloud to yourself. In a brief essay, discuss differences in theme, tone, style, and/or subtext between the original and revised lines. Which version more strongly conveys the mood of struggle, power, and hope? Quote phrases from the poem and its altered version to support your response.

2. Joy Harjo is the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States and the first Native to serve in that role. Explore this resource on the Library of Congress website to investigate Harjo’s work as Poet Laureate. In a list of 6-8 brief bulleted points, summarize Harjo’s signature project. Be sure to “Explore the Story Map” and “Explore the Collection” as you investigate and summarize. To conclude your investigation, discuss in a brief paragraph how the goals of Harjo’s signature project connect to her complex messages in “An American Sunrise,” especially the poem’s ideas regarding the “Other.”

3. Joy Harjo wrote “An American Sunrise” for an anthology of poems that incorporate the words of Gwendolyn Brooks’s well-known work “We Real Cool.