Praise the Rain by Joy Harjo Poem Analysis Essay
How does Joy Harjo’s poem “Praise the rain” reinforces us to value both good and evil after the colonization of Native Americans and the loss of their land?
Daily, more and more of our natural resources are used, leading to the destruction of the land of communities and animals to turn them into cities or factories. As the UN says, “around 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihood, and this place is home to more than 80 percent of all terrestrial species of animals, plants, and insects” (Life on land, 2021). Despite all of this, millions of hectares of land, flora, and fauna are lost every day, leaving not only billions of people homeless but also ruining the chances of a future for newer generations.
Joy Harjo is a part of the Native American Renaissance literary movement that focuses on portraying themes, such as identity, justice, grief, nature, culture, beliefs, and values through literature. Furthermore, Native Americans have struggled for centuries, they passed from living an excellent life surrounded by nature and by their ancestors to suffering poverty, racism, cultural loss, environmental degradation, among other things. Since the 17th century, they have been fighting for their voices to be heard, unfortunately, colonizers consider them inferior to them; due to this, some people that are part of the community have tried to spread more knowledge and awareness of native's oppression.
Looking at Harjo’s writing, I realized that she talks a lot about the importance of nature, how Native Americans took care of it, and how since they were forced out of their lands, the colonizers have been destroying it and putting it aside.
I want to focus specifically on “Praise the rain”, a poem that is part of her book “Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings” published in 2015. She brings up a lot of things to pray to, mainly nature, but there is more to it; people, objects, and emotions are talked about too. This piece of poetry starts with a line that says: “praise the rain; the seagull dive, the curl of plant, the raven talk-” this shows that she is talking about the need to appreciate even the minimum because when thinking about it, nobody pays attention to how a plant curl or how the seagulls dive, but like everything in life, it has a purpose, and it needs to be appreciated. This line can also be interpreted as how incredible nature is and the human need to praise it; nature is critical to survival, yet in recent decades nothing has been done to protect it, and all the hard work of Native Americans to maintain it has been lost.
Throughout the poem, the word that repeats the most is praise, in fact, it is remarked in almost every line, but what is really to praise? From my point of view, it means to value the things mentioned in the poem, although she could have betokened the need to worship it; the problem I see is that repeating a word many times causes it to lose its principal meaning, but she may do this to mimic the rain, how it is persistent and can break down many things, just as us humans do. When reading the stanzas for the first time, “praise” can be interpreted as something necessary to do, but when finishing it, I realized that Joy Harjo’s repetition is reinforcing and changing our view of the world, it makes the reader learn to be more grateful and value things and moments.
At almost the end of the first part, she says “Praise the backwards, upward sky The baby cry, the spirit food—” this part especially tells me that it is okay to appreciate our natural reactions and to feel emotions, yet at the end, Harjo says “Praise the day, the cloud cup The mind flat, forget it all—” which makes me question if the emotions and the little things are not valid and should not be considered relevant. In the last two stanzas, she changes from using a hyphen to a period, something I interpret as a transformation of breaks, pauses, or doubts to facts, necessary things, to live a prosperous and abundant life, to have a connection with our mind, spirit, and nature.
To do what was mentioned above, Joy Harjo establishes a correlation between good and misfortune; just like yin and yang, there needs to be a balance between these two. I also interpret this as how humans are easily sated and insatiable; a slight change in things can alter their ideology or mood completely, therefore, it is usually believed that only the good should be acclaimed. She uses a quote that makes me overthink its meaning: “Praise beginnings; praise the end.”, nothing is forever, and we should be grateful for every moment we have in this world, as every beginning has an end. All bad things are for the better, not necessarily talking about a reward, more like a lesson.
The poem ends with the verse “Praise the rain; it brings more rain.” repeating itself; it is known that rain can bring prosperity, so by saying this, I judge that she not only associates it with Native American culture, or with nature, but also with the current situation of the world, praising the good, and the bad makes us appreciate the present but also inspires us to hope for a better future.
In conclusion, Praise the Rain is a poem about gratitude and prosperity, making a connection with nature and Native Americans, I can assume that she tries to see the good in their misfortunes, be thankful for their history and even for what the colonizers did because maybe, one day everything they lost will go back to them, they will have that prosperity they seek, and nature will flourish once more. This poem stands from the others because it has a more central focus on what it wants to leave as a message, while some others just narrate a “story”.