17 pages 34 minutes read

Joy Harjo

Perhaps the World Ends Here

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1994

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Literary Context

“Perhaps the World Ends Here” adds to the literary tradition of Native American poetry and culture, which explore and share the Native American experience. Harjo—as US Poet Laureate and one of the most prominent Native American voices—defines and establishes this literary tradition. In the introduction to an anthology of contemporary Native American women’s writings, Harjo writes:

The literature of the aboriginal people of North America defines America. It is not exotic. The concerns are particular yet often universal. Anyone of these lands shares in the making of this literature, this history, these connections, these songs. It is a connection [...] constructed of the very earth on which we stand (Harjo, Joy. Reinventing the Enemy’s Language: Contemporary Native Women’s Writings of North America, edited by Joy Harjo and Gloria Bird, W.W. Norton & Company, 1998).

Native American poets and writers (such as Joy Harjo, Sherman Alexie, and Natalie Diaz) all write to share and define their indigenous experience. Yet, their culture—which often draws on themes of nature, caring for and respecting the land, and taking part in community—encompasses a universal human experience.

Harjo’s “Perhaps the World Ends Here” falls squarely within this literary tradition. There is nothing exotic about the poem’s narrative; each element of life is something many experience.