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‘An American Sunrise’ by Joy Harjo

Characterized by lengthy sentences, compactness and message intensity, the poem ‘An American Sunrise’ is a marvellous piece of prose creation. It is fifteen lines paragraphed poem in which the text acquires the shape of verse adorned with multiple poetry devices. However, this short piece of writing explores the sounds and sights of this poem, its actual speakers, and the central message delivered to the reader.

As far as the sights and sounds in this poem is concerned, it is encrypted with particular end rhymes. In this context, the repetition of words like ‘we’ at the end of lines points out exact rhyming. Similarly, the music and sound look part and parcel, like the words’ sing’, ‘sin’, ‘thin’ and ‘gin’ in the middle pace of the poem prove the motion. Additionally, the imagery and the presence of enjambment in the poem, along with the rhyme that reads: ABCADEAEEAFGAH, make it fabulous. Meanwhile, the speaker in this poem is the Native American youth in pathetic conditions. The word ‘we’ accompanying “the edge of our ancestors’ fights” vividly elaborates the Native American adult address. Similarly, the word ‘sin’ as ‘an invention of Christians’ in lines (5-7) nourishes the idea that the speakers are Native American youngsters.

Moreover, the theme and central message or theme of the poem revolves around the memories of culture, its protection, community celebrations, historical events and profound cruelties on the ancestors of Native American people. The belief in preserving these aspects of history embedded with dense dunes of fear disturbs the youth of Native Americans. Under the shadows of hope and terror among the youngsters, the poem intensely lights the daily routine and hardships associated with this community. The prolonged ordeal times lay ahead to make their dreams come true in the hope of ‘American Sunrise’ exists in their blood. But they are also afraid of past sins of the Christian community in duplicating the devil’s actions. In a nutshell, the Native American youth spends life with a candle of future hope but is embedded in a tragic past and the shadows of a miserable present.

Work Cited

Harjo, Joy. “An American Sunrise.” Poetry 209.5 (2017): 468-468.



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