Native American Literature (She Had Some Horses)
By Joy Harjo
The particular problems of Native Americans in becoming a part of society
The poem She had Some Horses written by Joy Harjo was an expression of feeling in search for freedom and self-actualization. The poem was Harjo’s highly considered and anthologized poem in which she illustrates the “horses” within a woman who struggles to settle conflicting personal feelings and experiences to attain a sense of oneness. The author integrates Native American myth, and symbols as well as values in her writings (Poetry Foundation).
As a Native American, Harjo uses horses as a symbol of the inner spirit regardless of sex, which is trying to be free. Perhaps, Harjo was enthralled by the strength of horses when they are on the loose and they can go any where at great strength and speed. Thus, she uses horses as metaphor of the spirit, which she characterized as power within and utilized by either sex
Harjo’s poem was an imposing anthology of poetry, which explores womanhood most cherished moments. She particularly speaks of the women’s imprisonment and suffering at the hands of men and society and of their anguish. Harjo states,
“She had horses that got down on their knees for any savior. She had horses who thought their high prize had saved them. She had horses who tried to save her, who climbed in her bed at night and prayed as they raped her.”
In this particular aspect, Harjo shares the feminist concerns and regard the particular experience of being a Native American woman. She also speak of the women power in which she states,
“She had horses that spit at male queens who made them afraid of themselves. She had horses who said they weren’t afraid” and of love and hate. The end part of the poem goes, “She had some horses she loved. She had some horses she hated.”
Indeed, there are two objects used prominently by the writer throughout the poem and they are closely related, the feminine “she” and the “horse.” However, it is obvious that the writer was not referring to the women gender for her use of the feminine pronoun. “She” may be referring to the mother earth as the author seemed to describe it in the very first line of the poem, which goes, “she had horses who were bodies of sand. She had horses who were maps drawn of blood.” The author may have also been referring to the society, which all those realities she had seen exist.
The writer’s emphasis on the horses of different descriptions seemed to reflect here perspective of the society. Although the main emphasis is on the horses, yet the fact that “she” is always connected with horses “she” then holds special importance by having all those horses. It seemed to me that although horses were seen by most critics of the poem as a symbol of the inner spirit within a person, they also represent the different faces of the society as seen by the writer. Passages such as, “She had horses who whispered in the dark, who were afraid to speak to speak; She had horses who screamed out of fear of the silence who carried knives to protect themselves from ghost,” seemed to speak of discrimination and oppression that perhaps had to do with murders of native American women and children in Sand Creek. This incident was mentioned by Simon Ortiz as well as the abuse the government on the Native Americans in his poem From Sand Creek.
Harjo, Joy She Had Some Horses
Archive Poetry Foundation