When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through: Joy Harjo and Indigenous Pacific Islander Poets

Join us for a virtual Green Room event with U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo and Indigenous Pacific Islander Poets as they read selections from When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through (W.W. Norton, 2020) and discuss the making of this anthology of native nations poets, edited by Harjo.

Participating poets include ʻĪmaikalani Kalahele, Dan Talaupapa McMullin, Mahealani Perez-Wendt, Brandy Nālani McDougall, Craig Santos Perez, Lehua M. Taitano, and No‘u Revilla.

Live webcast begins 3:00 PM Hawai‘i / 6:00 PM Pacific / 9:00 PM Eastern and will run 90 minutes.

This event is free, but a donation is welcome.

After registering, check your email inbox - all registrants will receive a 10% off promo code to purchase the anthology at da Shop: books + curiosities, one of our favorite local booksellers in Hawai‘i. 

Joy Harjo’s nine books of poetry include An American Sunrise, Conflict Resolution for Holy BeingsHow We Became Human: New and Selected Poems, and She Had Some Horses. Harjo’s memoir Crazy Brave won several awards, including the PEN USA Literary Award for Creative Non-Fiction and the American Book Award. She co-edited two anthologies of contemporary Native women’s writing: When the Light of the World was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through and Reinventing the Enemy’s Language: Native Women’s Writing of North America, one of the London Observer’s Best Books of 1997. She is the recipient of the Ruth Lilly Prize from the Poetry Foundation for Lifetime Achievement, the 2015 Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets for proven mastery in the art of poetry, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and the United States Artist Fellowship. In 2014 she was inducted into the Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame. A renowned musician, Harjo performs with her saxophone nationally and internationally, solo and with her band, the Arrow Dynamics. She has five award-winning CDs of music including the award-winning albums Red Dreams, A Trail Beyond Tears and Winding Through the Milky Way, which won a Native American Music Award for Best Female Artist of the Year in 2009. Harjo’s latest is a book of poetry from Norton, An American Sunrise. In 2019, Joy Harjo was appointed the 23rd United States Poet Laureate, the first Native American to hold the position. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

‘Īmaikalani Kalahele is a Kanaka Maoli (native Hawaiian) poet, artist, and musician whose work has appeared in anthologies of native Hawaiian literature, such as Mälama: Hawaiian Land and Water (1985), and in the journal ̒Ōiwi: A Native Hawaiian Journal. Kalahele’s book Kalahele (2002) collected his poetry and art in a polyphonic performance that mixed English, Hawaiian Creole, and his indigenous language. Reviewing the book, Steven Winduo described how “Kalahele reflects the issues of culture, Hawaiian identity, land alienation, American exploitation, and cultural decolonization. This collection has poetry and art speaking simultaneously, imagining a society that links the past with the present and the future. The Hawaiian artist and poet mediates between ancestral knowledge and modern influences in a lace of art and poetry that floats on the currents of the Pacific, across the islands and in space.”

From Kula, Maui, Brandy Nālani McDougall is of Kanaka ʻŌiwi (Hawaiʻi, Maui, and Kauaʻi lineages), Chinese and Scottish descent. She is the author of a poetry collection, The Salt-Wind, Ka Makani Paʻakai (Kuleana ʻŌiwi Press 2008) and the co-editor of Huihui: Navigating Art and Literature in the Pacific, an anthology focused on Pacific aesthetics and rhetorics (University of Hawaiʻi Press 2014).  A former Mellon and Ford postdoctoral fellow, her monograph Finding Meaning: Kaona and Contemporary Hawaiian Literature (University of Arizona Press 2016) was awarded the 2017 Beatrice Medicine Award for Scholarship in American Indian Studies and a Ka Palapala Poʻokela Honorable Mention. Aside from her scholarship and poetry, McDougall is the co-founder of Ala Press, an independent press dedicated to publishing creative works by Indigenous Pacific Islanders. In addition, she currently serves on the American Quarterly board of managing editors as well as the board of the Pacific Writers’ Connection.

Dan Taulapapa McMullin is an artist and poet from Sāmoa i Sasa'e (Eastern Samoa, American Samoa) who identifies as Fa'afafine. Their art was shown at the Metropolitan Museum, De Young Museum, Auckland Art Gallery, Oakland Museum, Bishop Museum, Musée du quai Branly, and the United Nations. Their film Sinalela won the 2002 Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival Best Short Film Award. Their book of collected poems, Coconut Milk (University of Arizona Press, 2013), was on the American Library Association Rainbow List Top Ten Books of the Year. Samoan Queer Lives (2018), co-edited with Yuki Kihara, is a collection of Fa'afafine interviews published by Little Island Press of Aotearoa-New Zealand. Taulapapa's performance poem, The Bat, and other early works received a 1997 Poets & Writers Award from The Writers Loft. 100 Tikis is an art appropriation video at the intersection of tiki kitsch and indigenous sovereignty, and was the opening night film selection of the 2016 Présence Autochtone First Peoples Festival in Montreal; and was an Official Selection in the Fifo Tahiti International Oceania Documentary Film Festival; and at Pacifique Festival in Rochefort, France. Taulapapa's art studio and writing practice is based in Hudson, New York, where they live with their partner. They are currently working on a graphic narrative on the queer history of Polynesia.

Craig Santos Perez is a Chamoru from the Pacific Island of Guåhan (Guam). He is the author of five books of poetry and the co-editor of five anthologies. He is a poet, scholar, editor, publisher, essayist, critic, book reviewer, artist, environmentalist, and political activist. He teaches at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

Mahealani Perez-Wendt is a Native Hawaiian poet and community advocate, worked 32 years as Executive Director of the public interest law firm Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation. Her book of poetry Uluhaimālama, was published in 2008; a chapbook, other poetry and short stories appear in literary anthologies in Hawai`i, Aotearoa and the U.S. Her poetry is represented in several of Joy's Harjo's laureate projects.

Noʻu Revilla is a queer ʻŌiwi poet, educator & aloha ʻāina. Born and raised in Waiʻehu on the island of Maui, Noʻu currently lives and loves in Pālolo valley on the island of Oʻahu. She is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at UHM. Her poetry has been featured in Poetry, Literary Hub, ANMLY, and the Honolulu Museum of Art. Her latest chapbook Permission to Make Digging Sounds was published in Effigies III in 2019, and she has performed throughout Hawaiʻi as well as Canada, Papua New Guinea, and the United Nations. In the summer 2019, she taught poetry at Puʻuhuluhulu University while standing to protect Maunakea with her lāhui.

Lehua M. Taitano is a queer CHamoru writer and interdisciplinary artist from Yigu, Guåhan (familian Kuetu yan Kabesa) and co-founder of Art 25: Art in the Twenty-fifth Century, a dynamic collective which investigates how Indigenous and Black art lives in the 21st century and envisions how it will flourish in the 25th century and beyond. She is the author of two volumes of poetry—Inside Me an Island and A Bell Made of Stones. Taitano’s work investigates modern indigeneity, decolonization, and cultural identity in the context of diaspora.