Joy Harjo is first Native American named U.S. poet laureate

  • In this June 6, 2019 photo, Joy Harjo, of the United States, poses inside the Library of Congress, in Washington. Harjo has been named the country’s next poet laureate, becoming the first Native American to hold that position. Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden announced Harjo’s appointment, saying in a statement Wednesday, June 19 that the poet helped tell an American story of continuity and disruption, “reckoning and myth-making.” Harjo’s one-year term begins this fall. She succeeds... Shawn Miller

Associated Press
Published: 6/19/2019 5:30:26 PM

Joy Harjo, the first Native American to be named U.S. poet laureate, has been ready for a long time.

“I’ve been an unofficial poetry ambassador – on the road for poetry for years,” the 68-year-old Harjo wrote in a recent email. “I’ve often been the only poet or Native poet-person that many have seen/met/heard. I’ve introduced many poetry audiences to Native poetry and audiences not expecting poetry to be poetry.”

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, said in a statement Wednesday that Harjo helped tell an “American story” of traditions both lost and maintained, of “reckoning and myth-making.” Harjo’s term is for one year and she succeeds Tracy K. Smith, who served two terms. The position is officially called “Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry,” with a $35,000 stipend.

“This country is in need of deep healing,” says Harjo, an enrolled member of the Muscogee Creek Nation and a native of Tulsa, Okla. We’re in a transformational moment in national history and earth history, so whichever way we move is going to absolutely define us.”

Harjo is known for such collections as “The Woman Who Fell From the Sky” and “In Mad Love and War” and for a forceful, intimate style that draws upon the natural and spiritual world. Her previous honors include the PEN Open Book Award and the Wallace Stevens Award for lifetime achievement. Earlier this year, she was awarded the Jackson Prize..

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