Jana Harris

Jana Harris

A poet, novelist, short story writer, and essayist, Jana Harris’s award-winning books include Manhattan as a Second Language, Poems ( Harper & Row) and Oh How Can I Keep On Singing? Voices of Pioneer Women, Poems (Ontario Press, Princeton), both Pulitzer Prize nominees.  Oh How Can I Keep On Singing? was a Washington State Governor’s Writers Award winner, a PEN West Center Award finalist, and has been adapted for educational television, as well as for the stage.  Her novel Alaska was a Book-of-the-Month Club alternate selection.  Born in San Francisco and raised in the Pacific Northwest, she worked for six years as director of Writers in Performance at the Manhattan Theatre Club in New York.  She now lives with her husband in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, where they raise horses.  Ms. Harris teaches creative writing at the University of Washington where she is editor and founder of Switched-on Gutenberg, one of the first electronic poetry journals of the English-speaking world.  Her seventh book of poems, The Dust of Everyday Life, an epic concerning the lives of forgotten Northwest pioneers, (Sasquatch) won the 1998 Andres Berger Award.  Her second novel, The Pearl of Ruby City was released from St. Martin’s Press.  In 2001 she won a Pushcart Prize for poetry.  Jana is a member of the National Book Critics Circle, PEN, Poetry Society of America, and AWP.   Recently she has been writer-in-residence at the University of Wyoming, St. Catherine’s College (St. Paul, MN), and Washington State University.  Her eighth collection of poetry We Never Speak of It, Idaho-Wyoming Poems, 1889 (Ontario) was published in 2003 and nominated for the Kingsley Tufts Award. She won a Reader’s Choice Award in poetry from Prairie Schooner in 2004.

"The work of Jana Harris is unique in American writing. She has always had a voice of true grit—sometimes harsh, sometimes funny, always close to the bone, tart, and indomitable. " —Alicia Ostriker


Jana Harris is currently working on a book of prose poems about weddings among pioneer settlers.


Jana Harris official website


Oh How Can I Keep On Singing: Voices of Pioneer Women

Winner of the Washington Governor's Writers Award.

Oh How Can I Keep On Singing is an account of the pioneer experience in the state of Washington, late nineteenth century.  It was made into a Moving Images/Washington State PBS documentary.

(Ontario Review Press, April 2003)

We Never Speak of It: Idaho-Wyoming Poems 1889-90

Ten years after her award-winning montage of verse monologues, Oh How Can I Keep on Singing: Voices of Pioneer Women, Harris uses the same form to limn a year in a late-nineteenth-century farming and mining area on the Idaho-Wyoming border. Frances Stanton, the teacher at a one-room school, is the primary speaker and the strongest, most complex, most thoroughly realized character. Most of the other speakers are students and their mothers. Only three men speak: a young miner, an abusive husband whose wife has sought Frances' help to prepare her day in court, and a teenager whose lust for horses leads to tragedy and prison. The mothers testify to hardships past and present; the girls bear witness to youthful freshness of vision but also, with earthy candor, to the bullying of boys. Scattered throughout the book are old photographs of people who lived the life of the poems and their frontier world. Harris' earlier book was successfully dramatized, and this book, too, would make a splendid performance piece.

--from Booklist

(Ontario Review Press, April 2003)

Horses Never Lie About Love

Award-winning poet Jana Harris tells the inspiring story of her twenty-four year relationship with a troubled but beautiful, blood-red feral mare who, in spite of her troubled past, has a talent for healing and helping every human and other being she comes into contact with.

In Horses Never Lie About Love, Harris lyrically recounts how this wounded, implacable beast held a magical influence over the other horses of the ranch and how she eased uncannily into the role of mother after having a foal. In time she became the heart of the ranch—now thirty-three years old, she is a matriarchal presence without whom the other horses cannot sleep at night, and whose quiet wisdom transmits strength of character that transcends the thin line between animals and the humans they love.

(Free Press, November 2011)