Joy Harjo, one of this country's foremost Native American voices, combines elements of storytelling, prayer, and song, informed by her interest in jazz and by her North American tribal background, in this, her fourth volume of poetry.
``The leap between the sacred and profane is as thin as fishing line.'' In her seventh book, Harjo (Secrets from the Center of the World), a member of the Creek tribe, makes this leap time after time. Working with a diction and a syntax that seem deliberately plain and declarative, she invokes ancient Native American myth, often from the midst of ordinary contemporary places such as Brooklyn, N.Y.; Washington, D.C.; and Chicago's O'Hare airport (``Chicago rose up as a mechanical giant with soft insides buzzing''). Her myths endow everyday experience with a transformative meaning that rescues Harjo's characters from their sometimes isolating individuality. Yet the myths also heed the details of individual experience as ``the single complicated human becomes a wave of humanness.'' The warmth of her universalizing gift is inclusive, collecting the lives of taxi drivers, an infant granddaughter, and ``an Apache man who is passing by my table in a restaurant.'' Readers may likewise feel swept up in the gentle wave of Harjo's poetry and prose poetry, where ``every day is a reenactment of the creation story.'' (Dec.)