On June 19, 2019, Joy Harjo, member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, was announced as the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States. She is the first Native American to be honored with this title. Harjo is a celebrated author, poet, teacher, activist and musician. She has been awarded multiple high-profile honors and awards in addition to Poet Laureate, including (but not limited to) the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas, the Josephine Miles Poetry Award, the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and the American Indian Distinguished Achievement in the Arts Award.
She has received fellowships from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rasmuson Foundation, the Witter Bynner Foundation, and the Ruth Lilly Prize in Poetry. Her memoir, Crazy Brave, was awarded both the PEN USA Literary Award in Creative Nonfiction and the American Book Award.
Harjo has written nine books of poetry, a memoir, two award-winning children’s books, several screenplays, three plays, and a number of prose interviews. Harjo often centers native storytelling, histories, myths, symbols, and values. She also focuses on autobiographical, feminist, and social justice themes throughout her writing.
“I feel strongly that I have a responsibility to all the sources that I am: to all past and future ancestors, to my home country, to all places that I touch down on and that are myself, to all voices, all women, all of my tribe, all people, all earth, and beyond that to all beginnings and endings. In a strange kind of sense [writing] frees me to believe in myself, to be able to speak, to have voice, because I have to; it is my survival.” (The Poetry Foundation)
Service is important to Harjo in practice as well as in her art. She is the director of For Girls Becoming, an organization focused on arts mentorship for young Muscogee women. She is also is a founding board member of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation.
Harjo does not restrict her creativity and art to writing. She is also an accomplished saxophonist, flutist, and vocalist and has released a handful of award-winning albums. Like her writing, her music draws from her native roots and collaborates with other native musicians. She tours regularly with her band, Arrow Dynamics.
Read more about Poet Laureate of the United States Joy Harjo on the Poetry Foundation’s website and on her own website. You can check out a number of her works through the JKM Library. We recommend beginning with her acclaimed collection She Had Some Horses. Browse here!