Finding the right mentor can be an important factor in a student's success. "Soul Talk, Song Language: Conversations with Joy Harjo," (Wesleyan University Press) is the fruit of such a relationship, authored by award-winning poet and musician Joy Harjo with Tanaya Winder, poet and Master of Fine Arts in creative writing candidate at UNM. They will read from and sign copies at the UNM Bookstore Saturday, Oct. 29, at 1 p.m.
Harjo, Muskoke/Creek and one of the most powerful Native American voices of her generation, spent the past two decades exploring her place in poetry, music, dance/performance and art. "Soul Talk, Song Language" gathers in one collection many of these explorations and conversations through personal essays, interviews, newspaper columns and photographs. Harjo, a UNM alumna and past professor, has published seven books of acclaimed poetry and five award-winning albums of music and poetry.
Winder is a poet from the Duckwater Shoshone and Southern Ute nations. She is working on her first collection of poetry. Winder came to know Harjo when she was the first Russo endowed chair in UNM's Department of English Language and Literature. During Winder's first semester at UNM, she took a workshop with Harjo, followed by an independent study course the next semester. Winder said Harjo was good at reading and understanding her work, and their empathy was mutual.
"Tanaya's a wonderful poet and scholar, and she's also been a great editor," Harjo said. "I felt it would be a great opportunity for her" to collaborate on the book.
Though Harjo left UNM after Winder's first year, she continued working with her as a mentor. Winder said, "I think of her as a life coach. When you're talking about poetry, it leads to other things."
Harjo's early mentors included Audre Lorde and Louis Ballard. She said mentorship is "a continuum." "That's how it is, you pass it on."
Winder worked with Harjo on gathering materials for "Soul Talk, Song Language," gaining the necessary permissions and organizing the manuscript, giving her a rich taste of creating and producing a book. She also proposed the cover photo, her favorite in the collection, depicting the silhouette of a lone bird and it's reflection in the water, and in the background a black line of trees splitting the orange light of sunset.
Harjo was an advocate as well as a mentor. Not only did she make sure Winder was credited for her work, but despite Harjo's fame, their names appear on the cover side by side in identical type.
The most important thing she gained was patience, Winder said. "Soul Talk, Song Language" was two years in the making, and there's still the work of readings and publicity to come.
Harjo said she's glad to be returning to UNM for the book tour. "I still feel like UNM's my home," she said.
Winder hopes to pay forward what Harjo did for her. "If I make it, I'd like to help someone out in the same way," she said.
Another way Winder would like to emulate Harjo is "being very modest in recognizing your gifts. It's not just about you but about what you put into the world."
For more information, contact Lani Tyler at (505) 277-7473 or email to: firstname.lastname@example.org